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Approaching his senior year at Penn State, Lamont Wade learns to confront change

JERRY DiPAOLA
(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
Lamont Wade

The world is changing for Clairton’s Lamont Wade as he approaches his senior season at Penn State.

And the covid-19 pandemic that canceled spring football and threatens the structure — if not the entirety — of the 2020 season is only partially responsible.

He is 21 years old now, a returning starter at safety and the father of a 2-year-old boy, Roman. He thinks about his son’s future as much as any defensive scheme thrown at him during his coaches’ Zoom meetings.

Hawkins' incident hits too close to home: Wade didn’t need a reminder of what problems lay ahead for the next generation, but reality hit too close last Saturday when teammate Aeneas Hawkins confronted hatred and bigotry on his way home from State College to Cincinnati.

Hawkins, the grandson of former Pitt player Artrell Hawkins, told the story on Twitter of a white man shouting racial slurs and staring angrily at him when he stopped for gas.

The man eventually left without causing further trouble, and Hawkins, a 6-foot-2, 288-pound redshirt sophomore, finished pumping his gas, climbed back in his car and continued on his journey home.

Meanwhile, Wade was proud Hawkins didn’t react.

“(Coach James Franklin) always emphasizes handling ourselves the right way,” Wade said. “When we do something, it’s for us first, for our last name, then the university. We always have to keep that in consideration.

“The type of guy that Aeneas is. That’s what he definitely did, and (he) showed courage by doing it.”

The incident also made Wade think.

“Instead of focusing on what divides us, we never focus on what brings us together,” he said. “It’s important to realize what brings us together, instead of what separates us.

Spending time with his son: Wade said being quarantined allowed him to spend more time with his son than at any other time in the past two years.

“So, I’m grateful for that,” he said.

Asked what he hopes for his son as he grows up, Wade said, “I don’t want my son to grow up (in the midst of) evil.”

“You can’t avoid it. But what I feel like I’m trying to do is diminish it as much as possible so when the next generation comes up, they don’t have to deal with it as much.

“I wish he could grow up in some type of environment where everybody does things through love and peace.

“That’s crazy to think about, but it’s me being a parent. For my son, that’s what I have to say because I wouldn’t want anything less.”

Working on himself: While Wade hopes for what’s best for his son, he also works on himself.

During his Zoom conference call Tuesday with reporters, he said he had just finished running up and down two sets of stairs in his State College apartment 20 times.

He said he has come a long way since the end of the 2018 season when he was a reserve safety who considered transferring.

“I kind of did some soul-searching, dig deep,” said Wade, who won three WPIAL championships and earned berths in two PIAA Class A title games in high school. “Whenever problems occur, the first thing I did, and the first thing lot of people do, is point fingers, and that’s not end-all and be-all.

“The first thing you have to do is look into yourself. I had to take a step back and realize, ‘What do I really want out of this? What can I get out of it, and how can I get it?’

“Staying was, honestly, the best decision for me.”

Getting better: Wade was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season, and since then he has focused on making himself a better athlete.

“When you get to college, if you want to devote this much time to it, then you have to do it the absolute right way,” he said. “You don’t realize it at first, but the right way is good sleep, good eating habits, exercising, stretching, treating your body right.

“I said I want to maximize everything. I don’t want to leave anything back at all.”

About a month ago, he started on the pescatarian diet that is largely plant-based, with seafood the main source of protein.

“I had to make some sacrifices because I love fried chicken,” he said.

He said his body fat fell from 12% a year ago to between 4 and 5 percent.

“I’m feeling good and doing it to get everything out of this last year,” he said.

“I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I can do. It’s a lot of upside.”