Hometown hero: Waid picks YSU

Tribune Chronicle file / R. Michael Semple Girard quarterback Mark Waid, shown here during a Nov. 17 playoff game against Hubbard, made a verbal commitment to play at Youngstown State University on Wednesday.

Reaching the OHSAA Division IV playoffs was no easy task for Mark Waid and the Girard Indians, but once they got there, Waid found a home — in more ways than one.

The star quarterback who led the Indians to the first state title game in school history made his college commitment official Wednesday. Waid picked Youngstown State University, the place where he and Girard began their playoff run in a last-minute victory over East in the first round.

“The way that the entire Valley supported me and my teammates through this playoff run was something special,” Waid said. “It really opened my eyes and made me realize how special this community is and how special the whole entire city of Youngstown truly is.

“I stepped on that field Week 11 at Stambaugh Stadium to play East, and I got chills. Standing in the middle of the field, I knew this was home. I knew this was where I was going to play the next four years.”

Waid will have a close friend — and maybe a few more — at YSU.

Mike Belcik, who starred for the Indians before graduating in 2018, was a redshirt freshman for the Penguins this past season. Waid’s teammate this year, Nick Malito, a senior receiver for Girard, recently posted on Twitter that he also received an offer from Youngstown State.

“We’re getting the band back together,” Waid said with a laugh.

The strong-armed quarterback is the lead singer.

Waid, who verbally committed to Fordham back in May, flipped his decision after a phenomenal season. As a senior, he completed 267-of-409 passes (65 percent) for 4,376 yards, 48 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 1,776 yards and another 27 TDs.

He started to receive more offers as his senior year went on, and he said YSU first approached him in June. They continued to communicate throughout the year, with just about every coach — and a certain school administrator — reaching out to him.

“I spoke with everybody,” Waid said. “Coach (Bo) Pelini, being a Youngstown guy, he was the one who offered me. It was really special coming from him because he has represented this area. With what he’s done in his athletic career and coaching career, it speaks for itself. He was the one who offered me, but I had communication with (wide receivers) coach (Tim) Marlowe, (quarterbacks) coach (Joe) Ganz, (offensive line) coach (Carmen) Bricillo — the whole coaching staff. President (Jim) Tressel, everyone spoke to me, and they truly accepted me, brought me in and treated me like family.”

Waid doesn’t plan to take a sit-and-wait approach.

Youngstown State’s Montgomery VanGorder, who started the year at quarterback, graduated, and while backup Nathan Mays took over toward the end of the season, he battled through injuries and has been inconsistent passing the football.

Waid admitted he hopes to play right away, but he understands nothing will be given to him just because of his past accolades — first-team All-Ohio (twice), Trumbull County Player of the Year, Big 22 Player of the Year, just to name a few.

“I’m going to go in there with the mindset that it’s my job,” he said. “I’m going to work as hard as I possibly can. I’m a competitor, and that’s the way I am. I’m going to go in there and give everything I possibly can to be the guy from day one.”

Waid’s ambition to be the starter right away stems in large part from his desire to play for his hometown.

He joins a large contingent of Mahoning Valley players at Youngstown State, which is coming off a down 4-7 season. There were rumors about Pelini possibly leaving — his contract expires in February of 2019 — but Waid’s signing may be an indication the Youngstown native is staying put.

Either way, Waid can’t wait to be part of the program.

“It was a tough choice, but not a tough choice at the same time,” Waid said. “Walking on to that field and just seeing the lights shine down and the giant Penguin, Pete, in the middle of the field, it’s something special.

“Being from Youngstown, and going other places, nothing is like Youngstown,” he added. “People here are wired different. We’re built different. We truly are. To represent my hometown and to play with kids from Youngstown and coaches from Youngstown, it doesn’t get better than that because this truly is the best place in the world. It’s the hardest working people in the world, and I can’t wait to get to work.”