A recruiting journey that stretched coast to coast ended Saturday night not far from Neil C. Brown Stadium, where Clairton senior Lamont Wade became one of the nation's top football recruits.
At a lively celebration in a church banquet room, the star cornerback announced his commitment to Penn State. Hats from Pitt, West Virginia, Tennessee and UCLA were left on the table in front of him.
“It was back and forth so much at first,” said Wade, who reached his decision Wednesday. “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 had a great season, and they stayed consistent with me.”
The final decision came down to Penn State and West Virginia, and Wade was swayed in part by Penn State's success this season. The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten championship Dec. 3.
“That played huge,” Wade said, “because at the beginning of the season I told my mom, I think Tennessee is the place. But Penn State came around. The thing I was saying in my head was, ‘If Penn State could win, then I would love to join that program.' They showed me they can win.”
Ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 1 cornerback and the No. 9 prospect overall, Wade expected to play the nickel position at first but could transition to safety. Penn State coaches also want him to return kicks and punts and join the offense at times, he said.
“I love that 100 percent,” he said.
Wade reached out to Penn State assistant Terry Smith before his announcement, but Smith missed his call.
“I'm pretty sure they know now,” said Wade, who had to quickly turn off his Twitter notifications. “They're probably up there dancing around.”
The mood in Clairton also was joyful. A few hundred friends and family gathered at Ascension Auditorium in Clairton, to hear Wade's decision. His family and his coach, cousin Wayne Wade, spoke first, and all pulled on Penn State hats after the secret was out.
“I love my city like no other,” Lamont said. “My city really supports me. I've been at Clairton my whole life. My address never changed, so I have so much Clairton in me.”
Clairton already had a well-known connection with Pitt, but those former Bears didn't pressure Wade to pick the Panthers, he said. In fact, Wade said former Pitt star Tyler Boyd was at first committed to Penn State “on the low, but the (NCAA) sanction-thing messed that up.”
An early graduate, Wade starts classes Jan. 9.
“Right now it feels good to be over,” Wade said. “I'm solid. No turning around, twisting, decommitting, nothing.”