In mid-September, Sean Wade was sitting at his kitchen table in Jacksonville, Florida, in the wrong place at the wrong time. One more time. For example, he hasn’t been to Ohio State yet. He didn’t play football at all for other reasons. In 2020, Big Ten football, like so many others, will be off the rails.
About nine months earlier, in December, Wade was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the first half of the semi-final of the Ohio State Playoff against Clemson, with less than five minutes to go, Wade erupted in the match. He had the golden quarterback of the Tigers, Trevor Lawrence, with the blond curls in his hands and he shot. Helmet first. The referee showed Wade a flag for aiming and then banned him to the dressing room of the State of Ohio, where he had to spend the rest of the game alone with an empty dressing room and a television showing the lead of the Buckeyes.
He left the field and the Buckeyes won 16-0 as a team. When his teammates joined him in the dressing room shortly after half-time, the score was already 16-14 in their favour. And when it was over, they lost everything. The railroad. The game. A chance to compete in the national championship. Clemson 29, Ohio 23.
That night meant the end of something and the beginning of something new. A ruthless, soul-crushing out of season.
Trevor Lawrence, the referees, NFL ace, the coronavirus, the leadership of the Big Ten, the President of the United States – these forces have opened and closed the door to the possibility of winning a title so many times that Wade has had a whiplash. In September, his whole family gathered around the kitchen table to wonder what this autumn might look like for him. His mother Gwen, his father Randy, his younger sister Serenity, whom he spoils in a way usually reserved for loving grandfathers, and his younger brother Latrell. They often do. They meet as a Wade unit to deal with life, and on the 17th. In September there were a lot of things to arrange. Three days ago, while the Big Ten are still on break, Wade announced his release for the 2020 season. Two days later, the Big Ten weren’t ruined. Sitting in his kitchen, he has yet to make a public decision about the Buckeyes season. But it was already in his heart, he told his family.
That shot against Lawrence was practically Wade’s last game as a college football player. That lonely walk to the dressing room was almost the last act of a Buckeyes sweater. He narrowly escaped that fate, but those moments led him in every movement, shaped his decision. So Gwen looked at her son and asked the question that had been hiding like a shadow behind him for months.
What are you going to do, she asked, when you see Sunny again?
Fault! The file name is not specified. Last year was a roller coaster ride for Sean Wade, who hopes the Big Ten championship game is a stepping stone to a new national championship attempt. Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Sean Wade recently saw the sunset with Trevor Lawrence. These beautiful blonde locks, the same ones that, either by choice or accident, evoke the glory of Ronnie Sunny Bass from the movie Remember the Titans, spilled under his helmet and fell into the grass at night in Arizona.
In the second quarter of the Fiesta Bowl, Wade, the disturbing Ohio State cornerback, found a quarterback, a shooting star that burned bright and fast and exploded over Lawrence. Chase Young of the Ohio State Defensive End and Ohio State Granite stood up and helped the downed Lawrence close the bag. For a short and glorious moment, Wade sent Clemson’s offense onto the field; he flashed Lawrence at third and fifth base.
On the stage in the family room were Randy and Gwen… Well, Randy and Gwen have lost their minds. The commitment of their son to play in Ohio State on the day in 2015 that the Buckeyes won their last national championship brings them one step closer to another title. There was a thud and a thud. And then a pat on the back for Randy.
Hey, shouted a fan. They’re gonna take your son out of the picture.
upside down. The light was off. The bag became a targeted punishment, and the party became a vigil.
Gwen has left her seat in the concession area. She needed a moment to pull herself together, longing to sink into a sea of admirers and anonymous faces. Randy went ahead and picked up his phone to investigate the target rules. That was the first half again. Ohio still led by 16 points. Of course there’s going to be another game, he thought. He had to know if his son could compete for a national title in this game.
In the field, Wade slowly – then too quickly – dealt with what happened. One moment he was celebrating the resignation with his teammates, the next moment they told him he was finished. Spread out.
What are you talking about? He asked his teammates.
He looked at the big screen to see the piece in question. Did he take a header before he met Lawrence? Did he use the crown on his helmet? He watched as the referee recognized the call to goal, meaning his shot would be the last he would make for the state of Ohio in this game – and if the Buckeyes lose, this season.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Sean Wade and Ohio State appeared to have mastered their national semifinals against Trevor Lawrence and Clemson last December, but one game changed course. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Wade came out of the field, a weird feeling going on. It’s disturbing to feel so alone in a crowd. When he returned to the abandoned dressing room of the state of Ohio, he heard the growing buzz in the State Farm Stadium. He turned on the TV in the dressing room to see that Clemson had already taken advantage of his absence. The Tigers needed exactly five games – including a 15-yard penalty for a foul on Wade’s replacement Amir Rip – to score 16-7.
In the midst of the frenzied crowd, Wade sat alone. The administrator of the device has been here several times. J.K. Dobbins ran in with a taped ankle and then escaped. Wade saw him leave and wished he could go with him. But otherwise he was alone, with television and a bitter taste of disappointment. He made a lot of calls on FaceTime to ward off the unbridled loneliness. His mother confronted him, but she was still in the womb, and it was hard to talk at dinner. His sister-god FaceTimed also showed courage and offered a little smile to her 6-year-old son, who was just about to rule Wade with stories about how he had seen Uncle Sean on television. Finally, he mentioned his girlfriend, Jordan Fields, who had returned home to Florida.
They met in high school, and their love story began like all great modern romances: on social media. Fields was a star athlete at nearby Creekside High School and posted on Twitter that she was enrolling with a South Carolina senior. Among the lucky ones was a junior from Trinity Christian Academy who was a top athlete himself and who traveled to Columbus shortly after Field left for Colombia. They befriended each other online, which led to phone calls, which in turn led to a personal encounter. She was the speaker, he was the listener, and that’s what she gave him that night in the ghost town, in the dressing room.
If you don’t want to talk, if you just want to talk to me on the phone, she started it. When you’re done, you can talk.
It’s been ten minutes. Fifteen.
I think he’s… …just got sedated, Mr. Field says.
In the end, Wade broke the silence.
I wish I could go there and train, he said. At least step back.
Instead he practiced from the inside, shouted on television and had only walls and fields to hear his conclusions. He swallowed the game he wanted to play on the pitch for…… Rip’s penalty; Lawrence’s 67-yard run for the touchdown, to which the 6-foot quarterback treated the two swallows like a giraffe and toasted several Ohio State defenders in the open field. Like any crazy fan who knows the unique and harrowing death struggle of your team, he has managed to slowly but surely lose the battle to win.
Because it was a Greek tragedy that took place before him. Without him.
The moment Wade’s brutal shot became a target instead of a sack, the second Clemson was crowned with the first attempt instead of the fourth, was the exact moment when the Ohio State’s hold on the field was loosened. Lawrence, Clemson’s chief engineer for the resurrection, also said.
They thought they’d knocked me out, Lawrence said that night. When I got up, I had another advantage.
Wade saw Lawrence rise from afar and when it became clear that the state of Ohio would not overcome this advance, he retreated into the house. At the beginning of his vocation with the margins he was silent; at the end he was silent again, as if a new reality had arisen. He should have rectified the mistake. Plus, he had to rewrite the wrong ending.
A week later, Mel Kiper Jr. announced from the corner that the NFL draft was doomed. Wade was on his way back to Columbus.
Fault! The file name is not specified. His last act, in the form of the Buckeyes, is a gloomy and deserted march? It didn’t work with Sean Wade. Kevin Ebele/Sportwire Icon/Getty Images.
LOL, tell a story about your son on his first birthday.
Gwen’s father was a soccer player himself. Curtis Green played at the university in Alabama and then spent almost ten years with the Detroit Lions. Sean’s dad was a basketball fan, though. The day Sean became 1, two men who wanted to take a break from the debate put a basketball and a soccer ball next to each other and let Sean walk down the street from both of them. Then they retreated and left Sean behind to crawl to his fate. They watched, raped grandparents and parents to see what sport he would play if he could do things like, say, run. It slipped up to the pork rind.
Les, they say Sean will always choose football.
He chose Ohio state football instead of professional football for 2020 after an internal debate between Wades in January. His parents thought that if there was an opportunity to participate in the project, he should take it. They heard rumors about a possible choice in the first or second round, and it was a dying noise.
If a manager says he’s gonna give you a million dollars, you won’t get that raise next year, Randy. You take the raise when they give it to you.
But this unfortunate blow.
But that lonely walk.
But that abandoned locker room.
But this spooky loss.
If Wade had spoken out in the design, he wouldn’t have been the first player whose academic career ended in shooting. He wouldn’t even be the first Buckeye. In 2016, in another Fiesta Bowl, Joey Bosa was the first to put his helmet crown in Notre Dame DeShone Kizer and was thrown out in the first quarter of the game. Bosa cried as he sat down with his teammates before he left the field. And now, five years and two Pro Bowl seasons later with the Chargers, when he happens to be watching a Notre Dame game on TV, that game still eats him up, he says. But not as much as he would have wanted if the state of Ohio hadn’t won, and a victory would have been necessary.
Wade didn’t have that luxury. His team from Ohio State lost and the collapse began with his ejection. An exile from which he and his family still suffer. Didn’t Lawrence dodge his head after Wade left in a hurry? How could Wade stop in the air?
He is a quiet, quiet and generally imperturbable man, and he always has been, his parents explain. No one in his family remembers him crying the night he was kicked out; he didn’t throw a tantrum. He’s been the peacemaker in the family for a long time. Sean was probably 6 or 7 years old and came home from school and said the teacher had asked him what in the world he would like to do, says his grandmother, Mary Montgomery. He wanted to make peace.
Wade’s not a helmsman, she says. He’s not inclined to go to the theatre. Wade swears he gave himself a month to put this game and this night behind him. But the line between overcoming adversity and burying it is thin and dangerous, and sometimes easier for others to see than for you.
He can’t have gone out that way, Fields. It didn’t work for him at all.
Maybe that’s why Wade decided never to go back to Ohio. He decided to do it twice.
Wade was there when he had the off-season when the pandemic started. Early March: The state of Ohio has suspended classes for a month. 22. Mars: The government. Mike DeWine issued a restraining order. June: The Buckeyes returned to campus to practice voluntarily, which was their first encounter since the beginning of the pandemic. July: The Buckeyes were forced to abandon training after testing positive for viruses. And in August, the Big Ten VIDOC-19 found too much of a threat to their athletes and coaches and cancelled the fall season.
In the blink of an eye, Wade was deprived of the opportunity to correct the mistake, to rewrite the wrong ending.
But that punch. But this walk. But this locker room. But this loss.
After all, the Big Ten did not overthrow all the other Power 5 dominoes on their way to 2020. The Pac-12 has tied the guns all season; the ACC, Big 12 and SEC have not. Big Ten players shouted via hashtag (see: Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields’ #WeWantToPlay); Big Ten coaches issued strong statements (see also: Ohio State coach Ryan Day called on the Big Ten to reconsider their ban); Big Ten parents were outraged. Their leader? Randy Wade.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Randy Wade took the lead to lead his Big Ten colleagues into battle and back into the game. Michelle Kanaar for ESPN
When his father jumped across the country – in Rosemont, Illinois, where Big Ten’s headquarters is located, and in Columbus, where he held a horseshoe rally – Wade felt he had to free himself from the anesthetic – or – or – or – or – not – from the uncertainty hanging over Big Ten. The uncertainty was too great, and it weighed on him. The 14th. In September, he announced his retirement from the state of Ohio for the 2020 season. He did what he didn’t want to do in January. He chose a design.
He says the decision was made with sadness, but also with relief. Know what to expect, understand how to proceed and how to deal with it. But under that gnawing relief facade.
I had a hunch, Wade said. Something tells me deep down, but I want to play soccer.
Two days later, on the 16th. In September he turned 22 and went to physiotherapy in the morning. Fields had just picked him up at a meeting when his phone rang with a warning. The Big Ten is back. The conference locked the door, Wade locked it, then the big ten still tore down the gate.
Wade was in shock, dizzy. He made a decision, eventually felt at peace with that decision, and then the reality on which he based that decision was rejected. Fields took Wade home and promised to see him later that night. After all, it was her birthday and her family had planned a party in town.
That night changed everything, Randy said.
Ryan Day threw the party. Urban Meyer called. Ohio State Defense Coordinator Kerry Coombs called. Wade’s former AAU basketball coach called. Wade’s high school coach showed up in person. Through FaceTime and in a traditional way during a meeting, the coaches who followed Wade’s life wished him a happy birthday. They bragged about how proud he was of them. They’re burned.
He swam, Gwen said.
If he seemed lighter, it’s because he was. Wade closed the restaurant that night, and at the end of the evening Wade joined his mother outside on the patio behind which the St. Peter’s Cathedral is located.
I want to go back. He told her. I’ll inform them tomorrow.
Sean Wade will always choose football.
HE’S A LIFESAVER. For a season that only started in October; for the first game, against Ohio State, which was canceled because of COWID-19; for the second game, which was canceled two weeks later; and for the third game, against archrival Michigan, which was canceled two weeks later. With five victories in the regular season and the purgatory that followed, the team waited to see if those five games would be enough to qualify for the Big Ten championship. And finally, the playoffs.
Wade’s dream of salvation remained beyond the dreamer’s reach.
He stumbled throughout the chase. He started last year as a Buckeyes cornerback, and his decision to replace last season’s external linebackers – Jeff Okudah, third overall in 2020, Damon Arnette, 19th overall – is significant. Global Choice 2020 – went as well as could be expected when he was asked to replace the world champion. I mean, there are high-profile failures (Penn State, Indiana) and cries in the media (what can Sean Wade do to save his stock of designs!?) and even a slight withdrawal from the internet by his father (retweet) : Sean Wade needs revenge. Retweet: Sean Wade’s losing money here. #buckeyes). Randy, soldier, doesn’t justify and doesn’t dilute, says the reason he broadcasts reviews of Sean’s game this season is that … Sean’s play has been criticized this season.
Despite this serious problem on the internet, the people responsible for estimating these highs and lows are not so low in watts. Did he drop a design? It’s possible. Is he still a pioneer? I think so. Has everyone behaved too well for the season because cornerback Wade is playing in Ohio State, where the local demigods will terrorize the receivers?
I don’t see the same level of talent I’ve seen in Okuda, but Okuda is different from Okuda, said Todd McShay, ESPN Chief Analyst. But [Wade] is so athletic. That’s a long time. He’s got great speed. He can recover if he makes a mistake.
Fault! The file name is not specified. After a bumpy start to the season, Sean Wade had his highlights, including a crucial pick-six against Indiana. Joseph Majorana/United States Monday sports
Wade still has faith. Despite the cancellation of the games, the persistent waiting and all the fear, it is certain that his return was the right thing to do.
This is where I wanted to be, he says.
For his part, McShay believes Wade’s sporadic side fights will help him. I think it’s great that he came back and joined us, he says. And I really think the critics will appreciate it.
Randy also believes that Sean was right to return to Columbus after taking his decision in September last year, and has been able to return to Columbus every day since then. Before the season began, the country’s top players refused to participate in the 2020 season; as the season progressed, more and more points were given away, in all their confusion.
I think Sean, 40, would have regretted not making it through the season and trying to play for a national championship, Randy said. The older he gets, the more he regrets it… something’s happened.
The younger he is. The 9th. In December, Wade and the Buckeyes were postponed and were allowed to play in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday, although they did not reach the original goal of six games played. Their place in the playoffs is almost reached. Nearest northwest. Clemson and Lawrence, the real quarterback, could still take the lead.
Wade is aggressively diplomatic about the possibility. When it happens, it happens, he says. He just wants to play and beat everyone in front of him, he insists. That may be true. Or maybe such diplomacy is an act of self-preservation; that’s what he wants to feel, and that’s why he says he really feels that way. There is a thin line between overcoming disaster and burying it.
But he sent a message to the world that day in September when he (again) announced his return to the state of Ohio. He left no doubt about the meaning of this season, this opportunity.
I’m the sun back, that’s all he wrote.