STATE COLLEGE – A year ago, Penn State safety Lamont Wade entered his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal as he contemplated departing the program.

Wade ultimately decided to remain at Penn State, and concluded last season fourth on the Nittany Lions defense in total tackles with 67 in 13 games played.

With no uncertainty surrounding his role this fall, Wade understands his importance to Penn State’s defense next season. That still isn't stopping him from approaching the season as if it's his first.

“I can’t get complacent,” Wade said. “I think that’s the No. 1 thing that is on top of my list right now — never get complacent, never get comfortable, because I feel you can’t grow as much ... when you’re in your comfort zone. You grow the most outside of your comfort zone. I have to keep the same mindset I’ve had from day one.”

Wade started Penn State’s season-opener against Idaho last August, and progressed to become one of the secondary’s most electric players. From his position in the defensive backfield, he finished tied for second on the defense with three forced fumbles. Wade also added five pass breakups and two sacks. He said he feels he’s capable of even more next season.

“I haven’t even touched nowhere close to where I can be, or even close to how hard I can really hit,” Wade said. “There’s always room to just build on top of that. As long as I continue to be aggressive, I feel like it will keep on growing.”

Penn State safeties coach Tim Banks in April commented on Wade’s progression. Banks said Wade’s inner motor and desire to become even more adept at the position complements his on-the-field acumen.

“I’ve had Lamont for a year or two now, and we’ve had the chance to get to know each other. It takes time to learn what motivates him,” Banks said. “Lamont is super smart; he’s very motivated. He definitely wants to be the best version of himself he can possibly be. Guys like that I naturally click with in general.”

Although Wade emerged as Penn State’s hard-hitting safety in 2019, he said he doesn’t hold a monopoly on the Nittany Lions’ hit stick.

“As far as hitters on our team, I’m going with the whole safety room,” Wade said. “(Safety) JaQuan Brisker is a hitter. He’s a head thumper."

While Wade and his Penn State teammates have been forced to prepare for the upcoming season from a distance, Wade said the change in protocol this spring has helped him and others refine their skills as leaders. It's a trait he believes will prove beneficial when the Nittany Lions return to the field.

“It is kind of defining the true leaders, the people who can really bring things together on each team throughout the country right now,” Wade said. “I would say it’s a defining moment for leaders right now."

As Wade’s handle on the safety position and Penn State’s defense becomes even firmer, he’ll look to lead a position group that will be without Garrett Taylor, who  signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Buffalo Bills earlier this month.

Banks believes Wade is well-suited to handle the load. After all, the former Pennsylvania Mr. Football arrived at Penn State as a cornerback before being moved to safety.

“To be honest, it’s been great to see how well he’s adapted to learning the position — the total position, not necessarily his position,” Banks said. “He understands that boundary safety. He obviously has a significant role in playing our nickel back. He’s done a truly good job that way. All the guys respect him because of his knowledge.”

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