Ward was a standout college athlete at Florida State, playing both football and basketball for the Seminoles. But while Ward helped the basketball team make it to the Sweet 16 tournament, his biggest impact came on the gridiron. Ward had an astonishing run at quarterback for FSU, winning the Heisman Trophy, the Davey O’Brien Award, and the Maxwell Award—while leading the Seminoles to a national championship over Nebraska.
Ward had a spectacular season in 1993, throwing for 3,032 yards, 27 touchdowns, and just four interceptions while completing a staggering 69.5 percent of his passes. And yet even though his Heisman came with the second-largest margin of victory in the award’s history (behind only O.J. Simpson), his stature—6’2″, 190 pounds—inspired a few (wrongheaded) doubts among professional football scouts.
So Ward headed to the NBA, where he was selected by the New York Knicks with the 26th overall pick in the draft. Ward went on to be a solid role player, helping the Knicks make the finals against the San Antonio Spurs in 1999. He also gained some infamy during a playoff brawl between the Knicks and Miami Heat, when P.J. Brown body-slammed him on the court.
On top of his talent in basketball and football, Ward was such a good athlete that he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Yankees in separate years, even though he didn’t play baseball in college. With the success of players like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees—who both bucked the trend of short players not being great QB’s in the NFL—one wonders if Ward would have been drafted in the first round if it happened today. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
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