When he famously played quarterback at Florida State two decades ago, Charlie Ward was considered by coaching legend Bobby Bowden as a team mentor.
“Charlie is a natural born leader. Guys listen to him,” Bowden often said when media asked on Ward’s soft-spoken demeanor.
Ward will extend his leadership into a more advanced role in Pensacola.
Ward, the Washington High second-year football coach, was has accepted a position with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in a newly-created role as community coach and ambassador. He will remain as Washington coach, where he is in a non-teaching position.
His role with the Blue Wahoos will be to help with clinics and other opportunities to mentor youths.
“I am very excited about representing the Blue Wahoos as a community coach and ambassador,” said Ward in a news release. “Ever since I moved to Pensacola, I’ve been impressed with their commitment with the youth in our area.
“The fact this will allow me to continue to coach and now increase camps in football, basketball and life skills for the youth in our area is overwhelming and I look forward to serving our community for our youth and parents.”
Ward, 44, a native of Thomasville, Ga., won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 and remains the fourth-highest vote-getter in the 80-year history of the award. He led FSU to its first national title in that same season. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
He is the only athlete in American sports history to win the Heisman Trophy, then become a first-round NBA draft selection. He played 12 NBA seasons and was the point guard for the New York Knicks (who drafted him) when they reached the NBA Finals in 1999 under coach Jeff Van Gundy.
Ward was also considered a good enough baseball player as a teenager to become twice selected in the MLB draft.
The Milwaukee Brewers picked him in the 59th round in 1993 round. The New York Yankees chose him in the 18th round in 1994. He bypassed those chances, along with an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl in 1993 to focus on his basketball future.
“While baseball season is only five months long, the dedication to our community is year round,” said team president Jonathan Griffith. “This is an additional example of improving the quality of life in the Pensacola metro area.”
A devout Christian, Ward has been a motivational speaker to man;y groups. He is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which has a large and active chapter in Pensacola. In 2011 Ward received the John Wooden Keys to Life award.
Before being hired at Washington, Ward was head football coach at Westbury Christian School in Houston, where he lived when retired from the NBA’s’ Houston Rockeets.
Ward is expected to assist in former FSU teammate Derrick Brooks’ quest to have Pensacola part of the Under Armour Friday Night Lights youth flag football program. Brooks, a Washington High grad and 2014 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has been searching for ways to help connect in his hometown.
The Blue Wahoos will handle requests for Ward to speak to area groups.