Whenever the debate pops up about the greatest athletes of all-time, names like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders immediately come to mind. And in case he’s not already on your list, you need to also add former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and NBA point guard Charlie Ward.
Charlie Ward Exclusive
More than a decade has passed since his remarkable athletic career came to an end, but Ward’s exploits with the Florida State Seminoles, on both the gridiron and the hardwood, his tenure with the New York Knicks, and how he comported himself as a leader and a man of principles, still endears him to many.
He recently stopped by our Madison Avenue offices to talk about his life, which he’s now sharing with others through his new book, “The Athlete: Greatness, Grace and the Unprecedented Life of Charlie Ward,” authored by Jon Finkel.
In it, he shares his journey from a youth phenom on the streets and playing fields of Thomasville, Georgia, located 35 miles north of Tallahassee, Florida, to his miraculous athletic exploits as a multi-sport star at Thomas County Central High, where he was coached by his father, once a football star in his own right at Florida A&M, in both football and basketball.
He was also an incredible baseball player in high school and despite never playing at Florida State, he was still drafted by the New York Yankees in the 18th round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
The story weaves on through his inimitable college career as a point guard and signal caller at Florida State, and then his decade-plus career in the NBA.
The first Black quarterback to ever start for the Seminoles, Ward led the program to its first national title season en route to capturing the prestigious Heisman in 1993. In basketball, he led FSU to consecutive Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, along with an Elite Eight appearance against Kentucky following his junior season in football.
By 1999, he was the starting point guard on a Knicks squad that lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, the last time the New York franchise competed for a championship.
“I still don’t think people properly grasp what this guy has done,” his former Knicks coach and now ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy wrote about Ward, who is now the head basketball coach at Florida High School in Tallahassee. “I can’t imagine if you’re a high school parent and your son is being coached by a man with the combination of athletic success, personal character and competitive spirit that Charlie has. And now to pass all that knowledge and experience on to high school kids? It’s perfect.”
Charlie Ward Derrick Brooks & many more
“His leadership transcended offense, defense and special teams,” wrote current Miami Hurricanes head football coach Mark Richt, who served as Ward’s quarterback coach and offensive coordinator at Florida State. “It transcended the basketball court. The way he goes about his life with such integrity. The way he’s remained grounded after all he’s accomplished. I’ve learned as much from him as he ever did from me.”