This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It’s the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.
THE BEST TWO-SPORT COLLEGE FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL PLAYERS
NO. 2, CHARLIE WARD
To have the type of athletic career Charlie Ward did takes a nearly unfathomable skill set.
Some skills translate between playing quarterback in football and point guard in basketball. Speed, vision, ability to make quick decisions, leadership – they work well in both positions. But just because you’re good at one doesn’t mean you can do both. You couldn’t stick Aaron Rodgers at point guard and expect much. Chris Paul is a magician at point guard, but you might not want him under center in football.
Ward had an astonishing career that probably doesn’t get enough attention.
In 1993 he completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns, with only four interceptions as he led the Seminoles to a national title. He was an electric player who, as Florida State says, won literally every award in 1993 that he was eligible for, including the Heisman Trophy. There’s no reason he couldn’t have been a NFL star. He was considered small, but even if he was a little shorter than his listed 6-2, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have done just fine without ideal size. He was elusive when he wanted to run, and was an accurate and strong passer. But, hearing he wouldn’t be a first-round pick in the NFL (in part because of his size, but also in part because teams knew he also had basketball dreams), he decided to go have a long NBA career instead.
(USA Today Sports Images)Ward played 11 NBA seasons as a reliable point guard, mostly with the Knicks. He was a starter on the 1999 team that went to the NBA Finals. He never averaged double-digit points in any season, but let’s not quibble about Ward’s greatness. This was one of the best college quarterbacks ever starting for a Knicks team that made the NBA Finals. That’s pretty unbelievable in retrospect.
Ward didn’t just give up football, pick up basketball and land with the Knicks. He was a fine college hoops player. In 1991, his insertion into the starting lineup sparked a run to the NCAA tournament for Florida State, as the Seminoles won 12 of their last 17 games after he was named starter. The Seminoles made the sweet 16 a year later. Then in 1993, with Ward starting alongside future NBA players like Sam Cassell, Doug Edwards and Bob Sura, Florida State went to the elite eight before being beaten by Kentucky.
Ward’s 238 steals in a career is still a Florida State record. In 1992 he hit 45.8 percent of his 3-point shots, still the third best mark in Florida State history, and his 396 career assists are No. 7 on the school list. He also added 8.1 points a game on a supremely talented college team.
It’s a shame Ward never got a chance to play in the NFL. The NFL has never been very open minded or radical, especially in the early 1990s when teams had no idea what to do with a quarterback of Ward’s unique abilities. Ward would be a hit in the NFL these days, just like Johnny Manziel will be very soon. But circumstances led Ward to the NBA, where he pulled off a trick that makes him a legend among two-sport stars.