Hot off his breakout freshman season, Howard Payne University defensive end Brady Wade continues succeeding following an eight-tackle performance against Sul Ross.

Despite facing players up to five years his senior in 2017, Wade tied for the team lead in sacks with four and had 27 tackles with six for a loss and seems to have not lost a step in 2018.

“It’s a transition being an 18 year old playing against a 23 year old,” Wade said. “That’s a five-year gap. Even though it’s only a one-year difference, and I’m only 19, but that one year is huge. The transition was tough. Last year, I think we played 42 freshmen … The 42 guys that stuck together last year, we worked hard in the offseason and we’ve grown. Last year, we did not have a chance in games and this year it’s a dogfight every game.”

With three games left in the season, Wade has already eclipsed his freshman numbers in every category but sacks with 33 tackles, 14 solo, one sack and a recovered fumble. One statistic that stands out is the 6-4 sophomore’s four blocked kicks, which he said is not entirely accurate.

“They don’t even have all of my blocked kicks on there. I think I blocked five this year in total. That’s contributed to my defensive tackles. They just push out the guards and I slip in there. I’m a longer guy so I just have to lift up my arms and block it. I had one blocked field goal against McMurry that would have won the game. Throughout the game, momentum changes … It’s a big momentum changer.”

Wade said he was not the only freshman to see significant playing time in 2017, and far from the only freshman to benefit greatly from the experience.

“I put a lot of work in the offseason. Last year, as a freshman, I got to start all 10 games and that experience compared to the rest of the conference, where their junior year is their first year starting, means a lot,” Wade said. “… It’s an advantage for us. We’re all starting as freshmen and moving up as sophomores and juniors. We’ll be playing together for four years and that is definitely an advantage.“