Shaun Wade won four state titles in high school and his Ohio State teams went a combined 33-3 over three seasons.
Sliding to the fifth round of the draft after a trying final year of college isn't going to shake the rookie cornerback's confidence. According to Wade's high school coach, Vernon Dorminey, never count out Wade before the story plays out.
"He never quits," Dorminey said during a telephone interview from Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, where he has coached for 30 years. "One game when he was playing wide receiver, we called a jet sweep and he dropped the ball in the backfield. I thought, 'This play's over.' He picks it up, totally changes direction and scores. I was like, 'Whoa, we didn't coach that.'
"He's got great instincts. He's a leader. I texted him after the draft, told him that we've always been proud of him. He'll do a great job up there in Baltimore, you watch."
Wade did his best work at Ohio State playing nickel cornerback, where he's expected to play primarily in Baltimore, joining perhaps the NFL's deepest secondaries. Tavon Young is one of the leagues's best nickel corners, but he has suffered season-ending injuries in three of the past five seasons. Even if Young stays healthy in 2021, having a young nickel cornerback as talented as Wade makes the Ravens' elite secondary even stronger.
Wade was one of the country's top corners in 2019, possibly good enough to be a first-round pick if he had entered the 2020 draft. But Wade stayed for another college season and switched to playing outside corner because the Buckeyes needed him there.
His performance last season wasn't nearly as impressive, and it was capped off by a brutal National Championship game in which Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith went off for 12 catches for 215 yards and three scores. When a cornerback gives up big plays in big games, his draft stock will drop.
A combination of factors contributed to Wade losing his edge in 2020.
"I had a lot of things going on; family situations, injuries, surgeries, turf toe, knee problem, people dying, granny died, cousin died," Wade said. "So, there was just a lot of things going on, but at the end of the day, it's called adversity."
Dorminey said the decline in Wade's performance last year was no mystery.
"He played hurt," Dorminey said. "He had turf toe most of the year and I think it hampered him."
Wade wasn't happy about waiting until Day 3 to hear his name called. But when the Ravens selected him with the 160th pick, he realized it was a special moment after years of hard work.
"I'm part of the one-percenters [to get drafted in the NFL]," Wade said. "This is everybody's dream just to be drafted, really to go in the first round, but you have to understand there are only 32 that go in the first round. So, just being able to be drafted is a blessing.
"I've had a chip on my shoulder since the 2020 season at the end of that [with] the things that I've been through and stuff. I'm always going to come in with a chip on my shoulder regardless. I know what I'm going to do on the field. I know what I can do. I know my smarts and my talent. Like everybody said, they know I have first-round talent, and I know I have first-round talent."
Wade has been on the Ravens' radar since last season, and when he was still available Day 3, General Manager Eric DeCosta made his move. The unusual circumstances caused by COVID-19 forced scouts to consider more factors when assessing draft prospects. When watching Wade, the Ravens harkened back to how well he played in 2019.
"He's played a lot of good football in a very good conference," DeCosta said.
"Shaun was one of those guys that opted-out and came back in. Some guys went through some struggles, and you just watch how they competed," Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz added. "You know they may have been dealing with something this year. While they were playing, maybe [it wasn't] the same preparation, in terms of getting ready for the season."
Not only can Wade blanket slot receivers, he excels as a blitzer, which will be in asset in Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale's system. The Ravens seem like a good fit for Wade, who thinks like a winner and plans to play like one in Baltimore.
"If I have to play inside, I'll play inside," Wade said. "If they may need me at corner, they need me at corner. If they need me at safety, they need me at safety. I still have versatility and I still can do everything. My No. 1 thing is [to] be healthy, and when I'm healthy, you get the best Shaun Wade."