CHRISTIAN WADE is too optimistic to complain, but he is so often asked to return to rugby in the UK, writes Laurie Stone.
Fans of the game think this flying wing has unfinished business here after leaving the Rugby Premiership more than three years ago to test his speed in American football.
Despite the absence, he remains the league’s fourth-highest try scorer of all time, 82-10 behind former Wasps team-mate Tom Varndell, who leads this table but no longer plies his trade in the top flight. .
“Yes, I could have stayed and set a record or come back to claim a No. 1 stat to stay long, but that’s not necessarily what I want,” says Wade, 30.
“I could never completely shut the door on rugby, but I was born to compete, to entertain, and I still have things to do and history to write.”
It’s clear that despite his prolific tries and a string of accolades, including the unique honor of being voted Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in the same season (2012/13), he has also been frustrated by a few international opportunities. : He scored on his debut for England but only won one full international cap.
But what’s also evident is how Christian Wade’s electric pace on the sports pitch contrasts with a laid-back attitude off it. He doesn’t dwell on perceived slights or failures: “I just thought ‘well, if that doesn’t happen, then I’ll try to get to the top some other way’ – that’s maybe God’s plan.”
And America had been beckoning me for some time: “It was not the NFL (American football) but the NBA (American basketball) that first fascinated me.”
Rugby was also calling however; Wade grew up in High Wycombe, home to the highly regarded Royal Grammar School, with a strong rugby tradition that quickly enjoyed a player quick enough to score 10.8 seconds over 100m at the age of 16 – the junior record British is 10.21 seconds.
He was soon playing age-grade games for England and made his Premiership debut in 2011 with Wasps, finishing the season as the league’s second highest try scorer, with nine out of 15 games.
Wade has become a star player for Wasps, with highlights including six tries in one game in 2016, equaling the Premiership record, and other feats which recently saw him elevated to the Wasps Hall of Fame alongside other greats such as fellow English players Lawrence. Dallaglio and Joe Worsley.
“I’m still in shock,” he said. “I never thought this would happen to me and I’m so grateful to Wasps for investing in me and allowing me to have an impact on the team for all these years.”
He also took part in the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia, but his career in England stalled: “I just wasn’t chosen and I wish someone had explained to me why, but I have no grudges. I just used that to inspire me to take the next step in my story.
“There are hundreds of other guys in the sport who have suffered a lot more in their careers and in their lives.”
So in April 2019, he signed for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills team based in Buffalo, NY, and had another usually quick impact: a 65-yard touchdown on his first run in the preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Although currently injured, he enjoyed the experience: “My time with the Bills was a whirlwind of emotions and I made great relationships and memories with the players, staff and coaches.
But the NFL was more different from rugby than he expected: “You can sit in meetings all day. The attention to detail is insane but necessary and a big adjustment for me, as rugby doesn’t have complete playbooks to learn and most of the gameplay is fluid.
“Life in the United States has also been great – like a home away from home. I am very privileged to have a wife who was born and raised in Queens, New York.
The lady in question is Lisa Ramos, who rose to fame on the hit American show america The next model.
As Wade begins to prepare for life beyond the sport, he spoke warmly of their relationship: “Lisa supports me in everything I do and it’s been a burden for me to have her by my side so I’m looking to move on.
“My first love is music and although I grew up in the UK and now live in the US, I can also tap into a plethora of genres from our family roots in the Caribbean – mum’s family is from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while dad’s are from Anguilla and Montserrat.
An accomplished drummer, who has also helped his younger brother Adam, 26, establish a successful career as a professional drummer – he plays for singer-songwriter Craig David who is touring the UK in April – Wade has now launched a Next Generation Collective company to create platform performance events for new musical talent.
He explained: “It’s for talented but unsigned artists who don’t have the funding to allow them to reach an audience, so I find the venues and use my name – and invite some of my NFL buddies – to shake things up.
“I love the networking side and although the business is embryonic at this stage and largely a social enterprise, it could become something that will take me forward. I would also really like to involve Adam because we have always been close and can work well together.
“Ours is a close-knit family, inspired by our parents (Ken and Arlene) – I was really homesick in the US during lockdown. Mum has always been the anchor of our family and Dad has set an example by teaching us strong values and principles on a daily basis.
“Without their support, love, discipline and combined teachings and our faith, I couldn’t even imagine where I would be today, and I know they will inspire me on my next path in life.