JOCK DISCOVERS BETTER RUSH
The 26-year-old Eastern Oregon University junior grew up in La Grande, the middle-child, with a dad who loved sports.
"Ever since I can remember, I was watching and playing sports with (Dad). He would take me out to the backyard and hit grounders to me. We watched a lot of basketball and football," Wade said.
Outside riding his bike one day, he was confronted with news that didn't register. He heard his mother's voice, Wade said, and knew it was serious, but the words just didn't make sense Â— "Dad was killed in an accident."
After that, he said life and sports weren't the same.
"Something was different when he passed away. My mom wasn't really into games and my step-dad was not too much either, so I quit baseball," he said.
He also blamed God.
After his freshman year of high school, Wade said he wanted to focus on basketball again. He went to the camps, practiced and kept in touch with his high school coaches during the summer. They needed a guy who could shoot the three and play defense Â— Wade's specialties.
Things were looking up.
But Wade's dream of starring on the basketball team was shattered after a group of his jock buddies got together for a game of tackle football and Wade broke his arm.
His goals as a sophomore spiraled downward.
"I came back to school with a cast and my basketball coach just shook his head," Wade said.
His father was gone and the injury kept him from boarding the bus for sports trips. At home on the weekends, lamenting the past and still seeking the satisfaction sports brought, Wade turned to other kids who showed him a different way to get his high.
"I started hanging out with a group of kids who did other recreational things," Wade said. "I started doing drugs, by the time my junior year rolled around my passion was snorting a line instead of working out at basketball. I never played on the basketball team again."
"If my dad were around, I wouldn't have been able to quit sports because quitting was never an option," he added.
After alcohol and marijuana got old, Wade and his friends discovered methamphetamines. Eventually, he became sick of the sleepless nights. Lying awake, he thought about how much he hated the way he felt. Wade said the drugs forced several realizations.
"One day I was just looking around, seeing my friends, some that used to play sports," he said. "They were weighing like 110 pounds, picking their faces, and looking like zombies. I knew what needed to get done. I needed to give my life to the Lord."
Ultimately, Wade will tell you, he changed because God needed him to. He said he may have suffered misfortune for a reason.
"I have to look at those things and say God knows what he is doing," he said.
Wade is not timid about sharing his message. Clean and Christian for seven years, he would feel out of place on the basketball court, or any other arena, if he didn't tell others why.
"I try not to get in people's faces and start preaching, but usually it doesn't take too long for people to realize I am a Christian when I am not cussing and stuff. They say, Â‘What makes you different?' and I share what I believe," he said.
Wade is devoted to God and his change of heart is apparent to those around him. He is an active church member and teacher at Calvary Chapel of La Grande and participates in youth groups. He has gone on trips to Mexico to work with the underprivileged. Most important, he lives what he preaches. His viewpoint and conversation reflect his new life.
His attitude towards young women? He admires moral and religious values over looks and popularity. When asked about a girl in one of his literature classes at EOU, he said, "That girl has such a love for Christ."
On professional football: "We can talk about a Bears game, the 1985 Bears season, and I will get excited. But if I get the chance to talk about Jesus with you, I know I am talking about something that matters. Heaven exceeds statistics, it is just more satisfying to talk about," Wade said.
Wade doesn't hide his candle under a bushel. The only thing that is sometimes concealed is the tattoo of Jesus Christ on his right bicep.
"I always wanted the tattoo, and I just prayed about it. The tattoo presents a lot of opportunities, too," he said.
Wade believes the experiences he had are what now allow him to talk to troubled youths.
"Once you get saved, God will use you. I can relate with people who are on drugs now, and because sports was a big part of my life, those talents help me connect with people," he said.
The games Wade enjoys with his youth group and other friends are just for fun. His relationship with God is much more intense than any competition he has ever been in.
"In sports it was all on me. Now, I have surrendered it all to the Lord, and when things get rough, I just give it to him," Wade said.
He considers himself a servant, and not solely a sports player now.
"All I can do is point someone to Jesus Christ by telling them and showing them what he has given me," he said.
Through it all, Wade's volatile past has taught him a lesson on perspective. He said athletics are important, but dwarf in comparison to eternal goals.
"The things that happen on the court or playing field are over once you walk off. To be a part of what God is surpasses any sport or any high on this earth that you could ever imagine," he said.
Â— Dan Jones