Lamont Wade announces that he will attend Penn State in 2017. From left to right, he's joined by his father, sister, mother and cousin Wayne Wade, also Clairton's head coach.
Clairton's Lamont Wade carries against Bishop Guilfoyle in the PIAA Class A championship earlier this month at Hersheypark Stadium. Wade announced on Saturday he would play college football at Penn State.
By Brian Batko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In a banquet hall next to a church, Lamont Wade had his pick from the trinity of local college football teams: Penn State, Pitt and West Virginia.
There was no divine intervention needed for this decision, though. It was the Nittany Lions who won the recruiting showdown for the WPIAL’s highest-rated prospect in recent memory.
“The thing I was saying in my head was if Penn State could win, then I would love to be in that program,” said Wade, who put on a Nittany Lions hat after lining up caps for all five finalists, which also included Tennessee and UCLA. “They showed me that they can win with the Big Ten championship.”
Wade, who finished his career as the WPIAL’s sixth-leading rusher all time and with the third-most touchdowns in Pennsylvania history, announced his long-awaited decision Saturday night at Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church’s auditorium in Clairton. It was a packed house of family, friends, coaches, former teachers and a few media outlets at a commitment party that also doubled as a graduation party for Wade, who will enroll at Penn State for the spring semester and arrive on campus early next month.
The final week leading up to the decision was filled with hype, from Wade posting a poll on Twitter that received almost 17,000 votes from fans for their favorite school to national website tracking his moves, but he made up his mind Wednesday.
“The whole experience was great,” Wade said. “I really had fun with it, because you only get to do it one time. Right now, it feels good to be over.”
Enrolling early has long been Wade’s plan, so his decision came down to the wire. He liked a lot about what UCLA had to offer, but the distance was just a bit too much.
Pitt is in need of playmakers in its secondary and had seen plenty of Clairton standouts matriculate to Oakland, while West Virginia also seemed like a destination for immediate playing time. But Penn State’s recruiting efforts, led by assistant Terry Smith who used to coach at Gateway High School, won out in the end for this 5-foot-9, 190-pound ball of football fury who made one of the most anticipated announcements in this area in years.
“It was back and forth so much,” he said. “At first, last year, I wanted to go to West Virginia. Then this year in the spring, I was really feeling Ohio State. At the beginning of this season, it was all Tennessee. But Penn State just had a great season and they stayed consistent with me.”
Wade is ranked the No. 1 cornerback in the country, No. 1 player in Pennsylvania and the No. 9 recruit overall by Rivals.com, earning five-star status. That made Wade the top-ranked WPIAL player since Jeannette’s Terrelle Pryor was No. 1 in the nation in 2008, and the top-ranked player from Pennsylvania since Bishop McDevitt’s Noah Spence in 2012.
Other top WPIAL players who have yet to make a college choice include Steel Valley running back DeWayne Murray and Wade’s Clairton teammate, Noah Hamlin. Wade is the second WPIAL prospect in the 2017 class to choose Penn State, joining Central Catholic lineman C.J. Thorpe.
Before Wade’s announcement, his cousin and Clairton head coach Wayne Wade got emotional speaking about his family member’s journey to this point. His parents thanked everyone for coming Saturday night, and then turned it over to their son as flashbulbs went off and nearly every phone in the room recorded video.
“I love my city like no other,” he said after chants of “We Are” rang out from the crowd when he picked up the hat. “My city really supports me. I’ve been in Clairton my whole life. My address never changed. I have so much Clairton in me.”
Brian Batko: email@example.com and Twitter @BrianBatko.
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