Vanderbilt is planning a special Hall of Fame weekend for September 12-13. A series of events will unfold over those two days, capped by the Induction Banquet Friday evening, September 12 and the Class of 2008 being presented at halftime of Saturday's Rice football game. VUcommodores.com will spotlight one inductee per day leading up to the Hall of Fame weekend.
If there was ever anyone who was destined to play football at Vanderbilt, it was Nashville's own Bill Wade. The son of former Vanderbilt team captain W.J. Wade, Bill starred at Montgomery Bell Academy and spent many of his days as a youth throwing the football around at Dudley Field.
With Vanderbilt's Black and Gold running through his veins at birth, it took very little recruiting by Vanderbilt head coach Red Sanders to land Wade at Vanderbilt.
"We grew up in Nashville," Wade said. "My sister went to Vanderbilt and was four years older than me. I was just a Vanderbilt person, period. Vanderbilt is a good academic school and we competed in the Southeastern Conference, and I enjoyed all of those (aspects)."
Beyond his Nashville roots and family ties, Wade, 77, knew that he had more than just your typical legacy to live up to when he came to Vanderbilt in 1949.
"Part of the reason I came to Vanderbilt was because my father captained the undefeated Vanderbilt football team in 1921," said Wade, who now suffers from blindness. "I was hoping that maybe we could duplicate that (while I was in school)."
Although Wade never did duplicate his father's feat of leading an undefeated team, his list of accomplishments in his college and professional career forever set the standard for which every Vanderbilt quarterback has been measured since.
Despite playing during an era where it was much more common to run than it was to pass, Wade's numbers through the air have withstood the evolution to a much more pass-oriented game.
Wade's career total offense of 3,388 yards and career passing yardage (3,396) stood as the school record for over 30 years and remains eighth on the all-time list. Wade also shares the school record for most touchdown passes in a game (five) with Jay Cutler and has the fourth-longest pass (85 yards) in school history.
From Wade's records on the field came multiple accolades off it. In 1951, Wade was named SEC Player of the Year and earned second team All-America honors.
Following his time at Vanderbilt, Wade was the No. 1 overall selection in the NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams in 1952. He later led the Chicago Bears to the World Championship in 1963. In the game, Wade rushed for both scores in the 14-10 win over New York.
With so much success, it is easy to see why Wade was one of 12 individuals selected to the inaugural class of the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame.
"It is a fine honor and I greatly appreciate it," Wade said.