Florida football player waiting for D1 offer amid tough circumstances

Florida football player waiting for D1 offer amid tough circumstances


Florida football player waiting for D1 offer amid tough circumstances


Zoron Wade (Photo: Tallahassee Democrat)

Zoron Wade (Photo: Tallahassee Democrat)

There was no fanfare Wednesday on national signing day at Jefferson County High School.

Tigers senior Zoron Wade remembers the last time the school held a signing ceremony. It was in 2012, when he was in seventh grade at the middle/high school.

Of course, for a school system that is the worst-performing county in the entire state of Florida, graduation alone is a struggle.

That’s not the case for Wade, who for all intents and purposes, has done everything right, despite turmoil all around him.

Wade has been in the books and has a 3.0 GPA. He took the ACT early and often, scoring a 20. He didn’t transfer despite opportunity-scholarship laws allowing him to do so for attending a D or F school two years in a row.

Jefferson County High hasn’t had a passing C grade since 2003.

District on the brink: Jefferson County Schools offered last-ditch options

Wade stuck around for the Class 1A Tigers while teammates bolted for larger schools without coaching carousels, equipment problems or boosters struggles.

“It was a letdown to have all the coaching changes,” Wade said. “That was the most stressful thing. But I just tried to adapt, keep playing and hold my head up.”

Zoron Wade (Photo: Tallahassee Democrat)

Zoron Wade (Photo: Tallahassee Democrat)

He excelled on the field despite having four coaches in five years. Last fall, Wade was a second-team All-Big Bend linebacker with 92 tackles and he was Defensive MVP of January’s Florida-Georgia War of the Borders all-star game.

But there was no signing ceremony for Wade, whose only solid options right now are limited to Division-II Tusculum College bordering the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee, and Division-II Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina.

Jefferson County schools on brink of crisis

“I know what it takes and I personally believe he can play at the Division-I level because I know his heart and I know his work ethic,” last year’s Tigers coach Blair Armstrong said. “He’s got a great highlight tape and he’s done a heck of a job. He’s got some looks, he just hasn’t turned enough of the heads at the office when they make the decisions.”

Armstrong, who is a Jefferson County alum and a former coach that left in 1983, returned this past year as the eighth coach in 13 years. He resigned in December as newly-elected county officials entered.

At this point, there’s still a lingering question mark whether the two schools in the county school system will even be open next year. And with the new Florida school-choice law going into effect for the 2017-18 school year, more students will leave even if they are open.

“I worked harder and longer at this job than any job I’ve had in my life, trying to resurrect it,” Armstrong said. “It’s sad what the administration and coaches have allowed to happen here. It’s really bad and there’s no excuse for it.

Family affair: Armstrongs trying to revive Jefferson County football

“Zoron is the only one that’s a senior that has a passing score on the ACT and half of the seniors have never taken it,” Armstrong added. “Zoron’s been taking it for a year and a half.

“The fact that those kids haven’t taken ACTs (is a failure). I have kids that are juniors this year that have taken it and they’ll be ready for next year, but they should have been taking it as sophomores. I can’t speak for the previous coaches, but the fact that they haven’t had a signing day in that long is pretty poor.”

Zoron Wade (Photo: Tallahassee Democrat)

Zoron Wade (Photo: Tallahassee Democrat)

Football is supposed to be a way out, but it hasn’t been yet for Jefferson County’s ideal role model, who projects as a strong safety in college at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds with a 4.6 40-yard dash.

“I wanted to transfer several times, but my mom wanted me to stay because she felt that if every athlete up and left the school then eventually there wouldn’t be a program in our home town,” Wade said in honesty. “She thought I could be a good example for people to see that Monticello does have quality players and it is possible for them to be recruited while playing for Jefferson County High School.”

Using the family foundation he had around him, Wade kept pushing. Now, as he works out and stays in shape for the next level, he’s just hoping for the best from a bad situation.

“I still dream about it,” Wade said. “It’s been my lifelong dream to play college ball for a big D-1 college. I think about the adversity and it has made me stronger. I’ve dealt with a lot of changes, so it will make me more versatile at the next level.”

Prior to his senior year, Wade had interest from Central Florida and South Florida. But coaching changes at both universities left him lost in the shuffle.

Armstrong sent out hundreds of emails to nine states in the southeast, but the bites have been few.

Lately, Jacksonville and Florida A&M have expressed interest, but no one knows exactly how many scholarships are available anymore.

“I don’t know what will happen, but he’s the real deal,” Armstrong said. “I’ve coached enough guys that aren’t the real deal, so I know what it takes. But it is a college’s decision. We can’t make it for them.”

Head held high, Wade is still in pursuit of seeing his name appear in a Madden video game. He knows exactly what a college will be getting if he signs with them.

“They will get a strong player, a person that will adapt to their system and will keep playing hard,” Wade said. “Wherever I go I’m going to keep getting better, keep getting stronger and prepare for the National Football League while I get my degree.”

Said Armstrong: “I hate it because he’s a great kid. I know he’s going to play somewhere, but at this point in time we just have to wait.”


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