There was a time when Fred Wade was ready to walk away from football.
The fight back from a serious knee injury wasn’t worth the pain and time in rehab.
However, Wade didn’t let that frustration stay long. No, the Oakland High senior running back had too much left to prove. He wanted to show Rutherford County as well as himself that he could not only come back from the injury, but perform at a high level.
“I just thought, ‘Hey, I can’t do it anymore,'” Wade said. “But I decided I had to get focused. I have unfinished business.”
Wade returns to the high school football field at 7 tonight for the annual Battle of the ‘Boro at Riverdale’s Tomahawk Stadium. The Patriots enter as the clear favorite tonight when they face cross-town rival Riverdale. But Riverdale owns a 32-11 edge in the rivalry contest and has won the past two games.
Long road back
It was just over a year ago when Oakland football coach Thomas McDaniel tweeted to his team and Twitter followers:
“I’m sorry to say we have bad news in Patriot country. Fred Wade is out for the year with torn ACL. As they say, life isn’t always fair.”
McDaniel made a bold prediction afterward. He predicted Wade would not only come back, but be stronger. But even McDaniel questioned that prediction. Two months ago, he took Wade down to a camp at UAB just prior to the high school dead period. It was one of Wade’s first big workouts.
“It was one of his first times full speed,” McDaniel said. “He had to really compete. He handled it well, but the next day he was very sore.
“I didn’t think he’d be ready (for the season). Since then, he’s grown a lot and his confidence has gotten a lot better. Honestly, he would be the first to tell you he’s further along than he thought he’d be.”
Wade had big plans for 2012. He rushed for 590 yards on 82 carries as a sophomore when he was part of a stable of running backs.
But he was slated to be the top running back as a junior. Wade was ready to etch his name among some of the great backs in not only Oakland’s rich history, but also in the county.
Then the injury was announced — a day before the start of the season. His left knee was severely damaged. His ACL, MCL meniscus were all torn. He also had a chipped bone.
“I actually thought it was a good experience for me to get hurt,” Wade said. “It taught me a lot from a year ago.”
The injury left Wade hungry.
He had envisioned two years of being the starting running back for the Patriots. The injury left him with just one season. With the emergence of both D.J. Hood and Josh Cunningham, it may be difficult for him to have the big season he desires.
“My goal No. 1 is to get a state championship,” Wade said. “The rushing yards, touchdowns, whatever — I just want to get that state championship.
“But I want to let everyone know that I’m good. I’m here. My knee is fine. I want to have an Adrian Peterson type season. I want everyone to know that I can still do this.”
How good will Wade be this season?
No one knows for sure.
But Wade has put himself in position to have a standout final year. He’s looked strong between the tackles running the football. He’s shown bursts of speed in the open field.
And he doesn’t even think about the knee injury. He never thought about it the first time he took a direct shot to the repaired knee.
“I didn’t feel much,” said Wade, who wears a brace on the knee. It just surprised me.
“When I took that shot it let me know that I’m good now.”