Jimmie Ward made his presence felt all over the Northern Illinois secondary. And upon reflection, the recognition he’s earned leading up to May’s draft has been well-deserved. (USA Today Sports Images)
NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this eighth installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward.
Instinctual and determined.
Over the last four years, that was Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward in a nutshell.
Whether he was lined up as a special-teamer, a cornerback, a nickelback or a safety for the Huskies, Ward took the same approach to each play: make it count. The Mobile, Ala., native was able to do so dating back to his freshman season in 2010, when he participated all 14 games to block a school-record three punts, return one for a touchdown and record 21 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass deflection as a reserve safety.
Ward was named Northern Illinois’ Special Teams Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. And that momentum carried over on defense in 2011, as the sophomore logged work in all 14 games once again, starting 12 as a defensive back. He went on to tally 100 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, four pass deflections, a forced fumble as well as another blocked kick, garnering second-team All Mid-American Conference acknowledgement in the process.
In 2012, Ward took another step forward, receiving first-team All Mid-American Conference honors in result. Despite missing one contest due to injury, the junior led the Northern Illinois defense with 104 tackles, one tackle for loss, three interceptions, 11 pass deflections and a forced fumble over 13 starts at safety. His best, however, was yet to come.
This past fall, the senior started all 14 games to register 95 tackles, 2.5 for loss, a sack, seven interceptions, 10 pass deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on his way to becoming a first-team All-MAC selection, a third-team All-American and a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist.
Ward’s collegiate career ended with a 21-14 loss to Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl. But an unceremonious finish could not derail the perception on the former Alabama 6A All-State honorable mention. He outdid expectations. And leading up to May’s NFL draft, expectations are that he’ll be a first- or second-round draft choice. (more…)