Life just keeps getting better for Chad Ward. First, he was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press and won the Morris Trophy for the top offensive lineman in the Pac-10. Then, he capped off his collegiate career by helping the University of Washington to a Rose Bowl victory.
And in just one month, he could be one of the top guards taken in the 2001 NFL Draft. Ward had a so-so outing at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February, but he had a better pro day at the UW a few weeks later.
"I did better on everything," Ward said of his pro day workout. "It went a lot better. I did 30 reps on the bench (225 pounds each), I ran a 5.04 40. And my broad jump went up."
"I had done better than I did on anything at the combine, but (the combine) is a tough situation in which to perform. I think I represented myself well and had good numbers, but not my best."
Ward is about as low key as they come. He's not worried about projections or mock drafts or where he'll end up. Ward, who played mostly guard in college but also lined up at tackle, is not even worried about what position he'll man in the NFL.
"I'll do whatever is asked of me," he said. "The learning curve would be quicker at guard, but I could adapt to the tackle position. It depends on what coaches see in me and want me to be. It doesn't matter. I just want to play."
Ward grew up in Finley in eastern Washington, a community that backs the Washington State Cougars, chief rivals of the Huskies. He was subjected to some good-natured ribbing back in 1997 when Ryan Leaf led Washington State past Washington in their annual Apple Cup battle and then went on to the Rose Bowl.
But Ward got his due this past season.The Huskies went 10-1 with impressive victories over Miami and Oregon State and won a share of the Pac-10 championship to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Huskies then defeated Purdue 34-24 in the Rose Bowl and finished the season as the No. 3 team in the nation.
"When I came to Washington my goal was to play in the Rose Bowl," he said. "It took us four years to get there, but we put together a pretty magical season. To play in the Rose Bowl in my last game is pretty much a dream come true."
Ward and his teammates on the offensive line helped quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo to 2,284 yards passing and 15 touchdowns. He cites his physical strength and mental toughness as skills that help him.
"Physical strength is something I've relied on in college," Ward said. "A weakness I have is just relying on physical strength. It's not the inability of my technique, it's just I don't use (technique) all the time. That's the thing I need to work on the most, forming good habits."
Forming those good habits should help Ward adapt to the quicker pace of the NFL, which he sees as a challenge awaiting him.
"The speed of the game is greater," he said. "There are no longer just one or two good defensive linemen. Everyone you face is going to be the best. You can't take a play off or slack your attention. You have to be 100 percent every play. In college, if you get a lesser player you can play 80 percent, but you can't do that in the NFL. I'm looking forward to that."