Penn State got one of its starting safeties to return to Happy Valley in the fall, but as expected, the other one is going pro.

Senior Lamont Wade officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, turning down the NCAA’s offer of an extra year of eligibility for anyone who played last fall.

Wade was a pretty consistent target for critics during his two seasons as a starter, given his penchant for being the supposed victim on a series of big plays the Nittany Lions allowed during that span. But, he created his share of big plays for the defense, too.

Wade was tied for fifth on the team with 37 tackles last season, and he led the club in fumbles recovered; he was sixth in the country in that category. He had 153 career tackles and three sacks.

The top cornerback prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, Wade had an interesting career with Penn State. He played sparingly at corner in his first two seasons, then entered the transfer portal and was one of the very few players who actually came back to school after doing so to have multiple years as a starter. His performance at Ohio State in 2019 was one for the record books, as he became just the second Big Ten player since 2000 to have three forced fumbles and one recovery in the same game. And, to top it all off, he was clearly one of the spiritual leaders of the defense the last several years.

With Jaquan Brisker announcing his return for 2021, having Wade, too, would have been seen as a pretty good bonus. But, that was never a realistic expectation. The one lament with Wade is probably that Penn State didn’t give him more looks as a kickoff returner. He took that role over late in the 2020 season and averaged 46.8 yards per return, buoyed by a 100-yard return for a score against Illinois in the season finale.

All in all, he’ll be remembered for the big plays. Some he let up. Plenty, he created.