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Big Reds’ CJ Wade ready for challenges as a Hilltopper

PHS’s 2019 tackles leader brings big presence to West Lib

Parkersburg High School first team Class AAA all-state defensive end CJ Wade, pictured here in a game versus Morgantown at Stadium Field, will continue his football career at West Liberty University. File Photo

PARKERSBURG — One door closes and another one opens.

For CJ Wade, a first team Class AAA all-state defensive end for Parkersburg High School head football coach Mike Byus, that means going from a Big Red to a West Liberty University Hilltopper.

During his final year with the Big Reds, Wade led the squad with 123 total tackles, including 51 solo. Wade also forced a quartet of fumbles, had 18 tackles for loss with a dozen being sacks and that featured a record-tying four in one game.

“That was actually the first time meeting coach (Roger) Waialae,” Wade said of his official visit in February to WLU. “He seemed really calm, cool and collected. He’d be really fun to talk to once you get to know him.”

A three-year letterman in football and wrestling, Wade was looking for a third letter this spring in track for head man Rod O’Donnell.

Of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic erased any hope of earning some podium finishes at the state track and field meet.

“I was planning on running the 100 and 200 and being the anchor on the 4×1 and the 4×2,” admitted Wade, who also visited Glenville State but noted he felt WLU was the better choice.

“Even in practice when I was running we were supposed to be going 80% when we were running 100s and I was running 11.5s and 11.7s. I was really looking forward to it this year and then all this stuff went down.”

A starting nose guard as a sophomore, Wade spent his last two seasons flustering offensive lines in the trenches as a defensive end. He missed his junior track season due to a knee injury.

Although not 100% set on a major as of yet, the whole pandemic situation has been anything but easy to deal with.

“I did a month and a half of conditioning,” said Wade, who competed in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl in January at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I was pretty mad because all of a sudden the last day of school and coach O’Donnell called us in. He said there’s no more track until this coronavirus thing is over and I was like are you kidding me? It’s been pretty hard to be honest. I’ve been missing everybody I’d been seeing everyday for the last four years, you know.

“I’ve just really been chilling out and everything and working out a little bit. I’ve mostly been chilling out. It’s the first time in forever I’ve had a real break. I think it’s going to stick with me. I don’t think I can overlook all of this and what all I missed. There are some upsides. I have been able to spend some time with my mom, which I never got to do with all the sports I was in. I think that’s a pretty big upside.”

The Big Red said he recently received his individual position packet for workouts during the summer.

“I think my speed is pretty down pat for right now,” Wade added. “Getting stronger will definitely help and something I have to keep working on.”

Moving up to the Division II level is something Wade understands will be a challenge, but he feels he’s ready.

“I’m not really too scared,” he said. “I know for a fact it’s going to be faster than anything else and more competition. I’m confident in my abilities to perform. I put my mind to something it will always be done.”

The Big Red added of his time playing at Stadium Field, “I just have to say it was amazing and I’m glad coach Byus came in when he did. He really brought the best out of all of us. It obviously showed.

“We made three playoff appearances. It shows what we could do under his leadership. It’s just been amazing and I was glad I was here while he decided to come here and coach.”

The opportunity to play in the All-American game is something Wade isn’t going to forget about anytime soon either.

“It was amazing,” Wade added. “There were so many kids that I’ve actually become really good friends with. We’re still talking now. I never knew people I’d only know for three or four days would become friends.

“We worked from multiple different drills and got to tour around the Atlanta Falcons stadium for a bit and that was definitely a trip. We got to meet all these NFL players, old school guys. I think they were all pretty cool in their own way. It was pretty fun. Sadly, it ended with me being on the blue team. We ended up losing, 27-20. That was a bummer.”

During the sports carnival at PHS, Wade was honored as the gold statue.

“It was packed when we were in there,” Wade said of Memorial Fieldhouse and the event. “I was the gold statue last year. We had to paint ourselves a certain color. One gold, which was me, then two silver and two bronze. Basically, it’s just a group of really well known student-athletes who have come together.”

As much as the Big Red is ready for college life, he knows leaving PHS behind is going to be difficult.

“I’d have to say playing music after the games in the football locker room, that’s going to be something I never forget,” Wade stated. “I’m going to miss PHS. I’m going to miss some of the teachers there, some specific teachers, Ms. Stahle, Mr. Purcell and Ms. Romanowski.

“They’ve always been there for me from the beginning and I’m going to miss some of the underclassmen as well. I’m really anxious to get up to West Liberty to see all my old friends and everything and start college and my college life.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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