We Walk #1: FB Lee Ward [#36]
The Bootleg is proud to reprise last year's popular "We Walk" series profiling Stanford's high-caliber 2010 walk-ons, focusing our attention this time on true freshman fullback Lee Ward (#36), a two-time all-state linebacker and decorated running back from Missouri who has already made a formidable impression on the Cardinal coaching staff during his initial fall camp on the Farm.
It doesn't take long to get acquainted with Lee Ward's football personality.
Ward, a hard-nosed fullback from Parkway Central High School in Missouri, is no fan of gimmicky passing offenses that have become increasingly popular in major college football over the past few years. If it were up to him, heads would knock and holes would open for running backs on most every play.
"Other teams don't really play 'real football'," Ward said. "They're just going to pass the ball, pass the ball, that's not football. Football is hitting someone in the mouth every play and running the ball. And mixing in passing, obviously, but you have to be able to run the ball."
The success Stanford enjoyed last year running that kind of offense was a big reason why he decided to attend Stanford over offers from most of the Ivy League, Colorado State, Arkansas State, Eastern Illinois, and a smattering of other walk-on opportunities.
Ward was originally committed to the University of Pennsylvania, but the opportunity to play smash-mouth football and possibly earn a scholarship was too much to pass up.
"I originally committed to Penn, but then Stanford came back in and said 'we're not very full on fullbacks and we're not taking one for this cycle so you could probably earn a scholarship coming out here'," Ward said. "So I was like, 'That would be a good opportunity', so I switched my commitment."
So far, it seems like Ward made the right choice. He's received plenty of hype as a possible candidate to succeed senior standout Owen Marecic at fullback, with coach Jim Harbaugh recently telling the media that there is "no question" Ward will see the field sometime in his Stanford career.
Although Ward denies he pays any attention to those whispers, he appreciates the opportunity to learn from Marecic, a player Ward calls "the best college fullback in the nation".
"He's really showed me a lot on blocking technique and driving through a person and getting low and showing me how I can be the best by exploding through someone on contact," Ward said.
Marecic has helped Ward adjust to the competitiveness of a Pac-10 practice.
"It's a lot different than high school, obviously," Ward said. "It's a lot more competitive. Every day you have to come out 100% unlike high school where you could 'cruise' on a few days. That's the only way you'll get a fair look."
A 'fair look' is not something Ward felt he received from colleges during the recruiting process. Most schools were recruiting him primarily as a linebacker, the position he focused on during his junior year. But in part because he didn't have prototypical linebacker size, Ward generated only limited interest at that position.
"I felt a lot of the big-time schools overlooked me," Ward said. "For many of those programs, I was listed only as a linebacker. I think that's what got me down - just because I'm not as tall as the 'ideal' linebacker. I'm 6-0 at best, so they kind of overlooked me."
During his senior year, Ward focused more on running the ball and enjoyed a fair amount of success punishing opposing defenses with his physical running style.
"In my junior year in high school I played running back, but that wasn't my main focus until my senior year when I had 1,500 yards and six touchdowns. I didn't even send out senior tape," Ward said.
Nevertheless, the Stanford coaches liked enough of what they saw to offer Ward a chance to make the Cardinal football team. Former defensive coordinator and current Director of Player Development Ron Lynn made a visit to Ward's school his junior year of high school and the two sides stayed in contact until Ward made a commitment to Stanford in March of 2010.
Growing up, Ward didn't envision himself playing his college ball on the West Coast. Ward's father David is a graduate of Notre Dame, his older sister Justine is a current Notre Dame undergraduate, and the younger Ward admits he envisioned suiting up in South Bend.
"That's always where I thought I would be playing, growing up, but obviously it didn't work out," Ward said.
Suffice it to say, Ward's erstwhile Irish allegiance will be shoved unceremoniously to the side when Notre Dame and Stanford meet up in seasons to come.
"I was always pretty much a Notre Dame fan, just because that's where my dad went. But not anymore!" Ward said.
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