Everyone knows the stories about Bo Jackson excelling on the field in both the NFL and the MLB. Deion Sanders dabbled in the MLB during the early part of his NFL career also. But one of sports’ most impressive acts of athleticism ever was executed by former NBA point guard Charlie Ward.
While attending Florida State University, Ward was the starting quarterback for the school’s football team from 1992 to 1993. In 1993, he led Florida State to a national championship and his performance on the field led to him being awarded that season’s illustrious Heisman Trophy.
Ward was definitely capable of having a successful career as a professional football player in the NFL. But he also excelled in another sport during his time at Florida State.
In addition to being a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Ward was also the starting point guard for Florida State’s basketball team. His efforts helped the school make it all the way to the Elite Eight of the 1993 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Following his senior year at Florida State, Ward had a decision to make. Was he going to attempt a career in the NFL or the NBA?
Since he experienced so much success on the football field in 1993, Ward felt he was worth a team using a first-round pick on him in the 1994 NFL Draft. However, due to the quarterback being a bit on the smaller side, listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, teams around the league thought he was too much of a risk to use a selection on him during the draft’s first two rounds.
The draft came and went and Ward ended up undrafted because teams were worried that he would leave the sport after a few years and go play basketball.
“I would have picked Charlie in a minute if he had just made up his mind. I loved his mobility and athleticism. What killed him was his inability to make a decision.”
After realizing that winning the Heisman Trophy didn’t matter to NFL teams, Ward shifted his focus to the 1994 NBA Draft. This time, his name was called. In the first round, the New York Knicks selected Ward with the 26th overall pick.
He may not have made it to the big stage of the NFL, but Ward was able to call himself a professional athlete after the Knicks decided to take a chance on him.
After sitting the bench for most of his first few seasons in New York, Ward began his fourth year in the NBA as the Knicks’ starting point guard. He was never much of a stats machine, but Ward found ways to help the Knicks in other ways on the court.
By the middle of his NBA career, he developed a bit of reputation as one of the toughest defenders on New York’s roster. He never backed down from anybody on the court, no matter how much bigger they were than him.
In his 11 years as a point guard in the NBA, Ward was never a part of a championship team. But he did play a role in helping the Knicks make the playoffs for six straight seasons from 1995 to 2001.
Ward retired from the NBA in 2005 following a year with the Houston Rockets.
Looking back, his accomplishments as an athlete go beyond the stat sheet. Despite his doubters, Ward had a good chance of being successful in the NFL. His skills at Florida State were comparable to quarterbacks of today like Russell Wislon, Drew Brees, and Tyrod Taylor.
The fact that he was able to set aside a career in football and casually have an 11-year career in the NBA shows just how rare of an athletic specimen Ward was.