Wade finds solace on gridiron

By Ed Odeven
Sports column
(Published in the Arizona Daily Sun on Sept. 24, 2004)

It’s easy to forget that football is only a game. We become so passionate about rooting for our favorite players and teams that we can get so caught up in the emotional highs and lows of a game and its outcome that we treat it as a life-or-death situation.

It isn’t.

For many players, coaches, fans and media members, football is an outlet for fun, a once-a-week shindig that becomes an integral part of their lives. Sometimes it’s much more than that. For Northern Arizona junior receiver Simirone Wade, football has become a respite from tough personal times he’s encountered in 2004.

Wade’s maternal grandfather, Elmer “Bud” Daniels, recently passed away in Albuquerque, N.M. Daniels’ passing marked the seventh death in the last eight months in Wade’s family. He’s also mourned the deaths of aunts, uncles and cousins this year.

Though he has practiced, Wade didn’t play in NAU’s first two games of 2004, road games against Arizona and Stephen F. Austin.

“We had some important games that we had to play but I couldn’t be there,” Wade says. “It burned me but I’m back now.

“I went through some personal things that brought me away from football. I had to make some challenging decisions in my life. That’s when I was dealing with my family. I was going through some bad times.”

Through it all, Wade remains committed to being the best college football player he can be.

Wade says he practiced “to keep my mind off it, because if you just sit and think about what’s going on in your life it’s just going to bring yourself down. My antidote was just to come to practice and be with the team … the family that I’m here with.

“This is the thing I love to do: play football. Even though I couldn’t play in the games, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t practice and be with the team. That’s why I was still practicing.”

One may naturally wonder if Wade, a 2001 graduate of Glendale Ironwood High School, is ready to step onto the field this season, starting with today’s Big Sky Conference opener against Weber State, but he says leaving school was never an option.

“I never contemplated really quitting,” he says, “but my mind was in all different places and it came down to my parents. They are my heart. When they suffer, I suffer, and that was drawing me away from football.

“My No. 1 priority is God and then my family and then football, of course, so when my family’s hurting that affects me and that affects me on the field. … I had to take care of my family before I can take care of what’s on the field.”

Football is “just a talent that I have, but my family’s my backbone. They are there when I haven’t played and they are there when I play.”

Together, the Wade family supported one another through these hard times. But death after death took an emotional toll on all of them.

“We couldn’t heal,” Wade says. “We were just getting off of one death and then another one would pop up unexpectedly and we were just … going through a time in our lives that was a black hole.

“We are healing right now, and life goes on and life doesn’t stop for nobody.”

There’s a biblical passage Wade recites — “We may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” — that comforts him through times of grief.

“We may go through whatever the devil’s trying to put on us,” he says, explaining the passage. “He may take us through all these trials and tribulations, but it’s like a storm and storms pass over. They never stay.

“For the time being, while … it’s pouring, people are like, ‘It’s raining. Oh my gosh, I can’t wait for the sun to come back.’ But eventually the sun does come back and we are all happy again.”

It’s quite clear Wade understands the value of life and is wise beyond his years.

“This has definitely humbled me,” he says. “It shows me that everything on this earth is material, and material things can be replaced but your family can’t.”

Simirone’s parents, Thomas and Cynthia Wade, will be at today’s game. His brother, Edwin “B.J.” Bell, and sister, Talya “Shay” Wade, many cousins and a large group of friends, ex-teachers and ex-classmates from Phoenix and Tucson, where he was born, will be there. And Wade’s beloved grandfather will be at the Skydome in spirit.

“This game is dedicated to him,” he says. “And I know that he’s going to be hearing me in the stands. I’m going to show up not only for everybody in the stands but … him, too.”

Maybe today’s NAU-Weber State clash isn’t just a game. For Wade, it’s become a source of solace and inspiration.