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January 8, 2010

DT Wade rises to stardom

Ralph Friedgen and James Franklin didn't have to travel far for this recruiting trip. The two Maryland coaches spent a portion of their Tuesday afternoon just a few miles from College Park at the home of the Mustangs: Bladensburg High School. The Prince George's County school also happens to be the home of an intriguing football recruit, someone whom Friedgen and Franklin will be watching closely over the next year. Their target: A 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive tackle-end named Josh Wade .

Even if Wade's team didn't strike much fear in the opposition last year (Bladensburg finished 2-8), Wade sure did. He racked up 13 sacks and 55 tackles, despite facing double and sometimes triple teams in every game. What's more, he did it as a nose guard.

Mere space eater in the middle he was not. Rather, Wade culled up images of Nebraska tackle Ndamukong Suh, who terrorized opposing linemen and recently spent an entire evening in Texas' backfield. No doubt, that's what Maryland was envisioning when they visited Wade.

The Terps didn't extend an offer, but it could come soon enough. And if not Maryland, then Connecticut, Temple and Rutgers - other Division I schools that have shown keen interest in Wade -- will undoubtedly take the initiative.

"No offers yet, but trust me, they're going to be coming -- there's no doubt about that," Wade said. "Maryland told me to work on my speed and my future will be very bright. There's no doubt in my mind I can play at the Division I level. I know I can always dominate whoever, wherever whenever."

While Wade plays tackle for Bladensburg, he projects as a defensive end in college. He might not have the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.9), but he has an explosive first step that reminds coaches and scouts of Colts end Dwight Freeney.

"The kid gets off the ball faster than anyone I've seen in my life at this level," said Bladensburg coach Derek Tyler. "His one area of concern is change-of-direction speed, but those first three or four steps off the line, there's no one better in the county."

The Laurel Lions found that out the hard way. Laurel tried blocking Wade with just one man, and they suffered the consequences. Wade tortured Laurel's center all game to the tune of five sacks and eight tackles for loss. When the beating ended, Bladensburg had their first win of the year, 20-6.

"I felt a little disrespected in that game because they only sent one person to block me," said Wade, who plays with a nasty streak. "It really didn't work out too well for them."

Wade set the tone early. On Laurel's first offensive possession, the quarterback dropped back to pass. Wade came off the ball quickly and practically squashed the undersized center like a cockroach on his way to the backfield. The quarterback stepped up to avoid the rush, but Wade reached back and took him down with one arm.

"He destroyed their offensive line," Tyler said. "He pretty much dominated from start to finish and allowed us to win."

Wade has played in relative anonymity at Bladensburg, not helped by the Mustangs' 11 total wins in his three years on varsity. Still, his rise to stardom was hardly a surprise to people in PG County.

Wade's brother, Cornell, was a four-year starter at defensive end for the Mustangs and ultimately earned a scholarship to Duquesne. Cornell ('08) imparted on Josh the wisdom of an older brother who had been through the rigors of high school football.

"He broke my lazy streak," Wade said. "He made me get up and go to workouts. He pushed me and motivated me greatly.

"In seventh and eighth grade I saw all the competition in PG County and what Cornell had to go through to be great," Wade continued. "It prepared me for high school football."

So with Cornell's urging, Josh hit the weights and the track. By the start of summer workouts, Wade could bench press close to 300 pounds and squat over 350. He looked more like a fourth-year senior than an out-of-shape freshman.

Tyler didn't even bother relegating him to jayvee. Just like his brother, Josh would be starting on varsity as a freshman.

"You don't see too many kids come into high school that big and that strong," Tyler said. "You could tell he had been working out before he got here. We knew right away he would be special."

Wade started his career on offense. He played all 10 games at right tackle before switching to defense in 2008.

"Playing right tackle helped me when I switched to defense because I knew what offensive linemen were thinking," Wade said.

As a sophomore defensive end, Wade was limited to seven games due to injury. But he still recorded eight sacks, foreshadowing his breakout 2009 campaign.

Wade packed on 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason and came to workouts around 250 pounds. Needing size inside, Tyler moved him to defensive tackle, a thankless position that doesn't afford many individual accolades.

Thirteen sacks and 55 tackles later, Wade stuck a knife in that truism. Wade earned First Team All-Gazette, First Team Washington Post All-County and Honorable Mention All-State honors.

Expect an even better 2010.

"I'm pretty happy with what I've accomplished so far, but I'm never satisfied," Wade said. "Next year I'm looking to lead the state in sacks. I'm training, working out every day, showing everyone around here how it's done.

"I know there's always someone out there who's going to be a little better," Wade continued. "But honestly, I haven't seen them yet."


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