By Brandon Martin
Former Canadian Football League (CFL) quarterback and Martinsville native Jesse “Sonny” Wade signed autographs at a meet-and-greet event held at Coach’s Neighborhood Grill on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Wade attended Martinsville High School between 1961 and 1965. During his time at the school, Wade set himself apart as a dynamic athlete capable of playing football, basketball and baseball. He was drafted by the Pittsburg Pirates and he was named to the all-state football team as both a quarterback and a punter.
Now living in Axton, Wade reminisced about his time playing football in Canada.
“I loved my time playing in Montreal,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of friends up there that I still maintain contact with. I guess there is a part of me that likes to stay involved. Football was such a big part of my life and I like to tune in every now and then to reconnect.”
Following his tenure in Martinsville, Wade played football during his freshman year at Virginia Tech.
“I was actually one of nine freshman quarterbacks that year,” he said. “One of the quarterbacks that I played with at the time was Frank Beamer, who you know went on to coach at Virginia Tech later.”
Following a disagreement about how the team should run the offense, Wade decided to transfer and he ended up playing for Emory and Henry College from 1966-1968.
While there, Wade led the nation in scoring with 141 points in the 1967 season. His team went on to lead the nation in yards a game for the 1968 season, racking up 553.3 yards a game. Wade was selected for two all-American teams and was awarded the Virginia State Player of the Year for each year that he was with the school.
Due to his play on the field, Wade was later selected in the tenth round with the 236th pick by the Philadelphia Eagles. He was also chosen by the Montreal Alouettes from the CFL.
“At the time, the entire Eagles front office was fired so I didn’t know how much longer I would be a part of their plans,” Wade explained. “Luckily, the coach from the Alouettes came down to visit me at Emory and Henry. With everything going on with the Eagles, I decided to sign and go up there and play instead.”
Wade played 10 seasons with the Alouettes, amassing 15,014 yards and 89 touchdown passes with a completion rating of 51.9 percent. He even set a record for punting with 852 punts.
He won three Grey Cup MVP awards putting him in a tie with former Buffalo Bills quarterback Doug Flutie. Because of all his accomplishments, Wade was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.
“Being inducted was an incredible honor,” he said. “More than anything, I think it showed that a boy from Southside Virginia can go on to accomplish great things. It really is about putting in the effort and not letting the minor road blocks in life slow you down.”
Looking at where he is in life now, Wade remembers his high school years fondly and encourages others to not let that time slip away from them.
“High school football is a bit special,” he said. “It shows kids in the community what it’s like to play a team sport and it shows them how to work together to achieve a common goal. That translates to life later on down the road. Even if you don’t play football anymore, you’re most likely part of a team or organization still. Some of those lessons from way back when come in handy down the road.”
Wade officially retired in 2000. He is married with three sons. Now that his time playing on the gridiron is over, Wade now enjoys farming in his spare time, as well as hunting and fishing.