What if Charlie Ward Played in the NFL?September 21, 2012
Back in ’93, Charlie Ward was that dude. Regarded as one of the best all-around athletes of the latter part of the 20th century, Ward excelled in baseball, tennis, and basketball in addition to being a star on the gridiron. Despite not playing baseball in college, but was still drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers as a pitcher in 1993. He did his thing on the tennis court, playing in the Arthur Ashe Tennis Tournament in 1994, and played four years of basketball at Florida State along with future NBA players Sam Cassell and Bob Sura. That’s impressive, but his claim to fame during the early’90s was as a football player. During the 1993 season, Ward completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and had over 30 total touchdowns, leading the ‘Noles to their first National Championship. He was a consensus All-American, was named ACC Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year and ran away with the Heisman Trophy. He capped off an amazing collegiate career by being drafted in 1994—by the New York Knicks. Ward played 11 seasons in the NBA, but what could’ve been if he played in the NFL?
I can remember being a FSU fan as a child simply because of Charlie Ward. Even as a kid, I couldn’t figure out why this guy I watched make the Seminoles champions wasn’t selected during the 1994 NFL Draft. There were questions about his arm strength and size—he was very generously listed at 6’2″—but the thing that probably scared most NFL teams is the fact that he kept it real about his future. He was already drafted by the Brewers, and admitted that he wanted to play in the NBA, which definitely hurt his NFL chances. However, those aspirations may have come from the fact that he was only projected to be a third-to-fifth-round pick right after he won the Heisman. Ward said that he would only consider playing in the NFL if he was selected in the first round of the draft, and teams were not interested in blowing a gambling on a short-term investment. As a result, his name was not called on Draft Night.
So what would’ve happened if Charlie Ward was selected in the NFL Draft? His stature and talent were questioned, but let’s remember who the other quarterbacks selected in the first round of the ’94 Draft were: Heath Shuler and Trent Dilfer. Shuler’s NFL career was a joke (a short one, too), and Dilfer evolved into a game-managing QB after years of abuse and eventually won a ring with the Ravens, but the best quarterback out of the 1994 Draft class might be Gus Frerotte. What does that say? He may not have burst onto the NFL scene the way Cam Newton did last season, but we doubt he could’ve been any less spectacular than the other QB’s in that stellar Class of ’94. We’ll never really know what kind of pro quarterback Charlie Ward might’ve been, but we can only dwell on it for so long. He certainly didn’t. Is Ward a fool for keeping his options open? Not at all. He enjoyed a long NBA career, and made it to the 1999 NBA Finals as a Knick. In 2006, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame along with his coach, Bobby Bowden. Nobody will forget the magic #17 created on the field.