Northwestern lineman Patrick Ward tackles position change with skill and ease
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media October 25, 2012 10:18PM
Northwestern's Patrick Ward (70) recovers a fumble. | Getty Images
Updated: November 27, 2012 11:12AM
Unlike many athletes, Northwestern offensive lineman Patrick Ward welcomes change.
The senior hasn’t been bothered by what seems to be a revolving door in the Wildcats backfield this season — headlined by the quarterback tandem of Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter. He also decided to change his family’s allegiance, choosing to play at Northwestern despite the fact that his father having played at Illinois.
So it’s obvious why coach Pat Fitzgerald asked Ward to move to left tackle this season after starting 26 games at right tackle in his sophomore and junior seasons.
“I’ve enjoyed the move,” Ward said. “I’m happy with it. I think it’s worked out pretty well both for me and the team and I’m just willing to do whatever needs to be done to help out our team.”
Ward makes the move sound easy.
But it took a great deal of dedication by the Providence product to ready himself for this season. The move forced Ward to rework his footwork entirely and also called for him to put on weight.
The work has paid off for Ward, who has consistently gotten high marks from the coaching staff.
Northwestern’s offensive linemen are simply graded on a plus-minus system. If they did their job correctly, they get a plus. Incorrectly, a minus.
Ward has seen his single-game grades routinely stay over 90 percent — excellent for an offensive lineman — and has made blocking for two different quarterbacks look quite easy.
“There really isn’t that much of a challenge blocking for two different guys,” Ward said. “Obviously they are very talented players. They both have different skill sets. We go out there and we try to execute the same no matter who is behind us.”
When Iowa travels to Ryan Field Saturday, the spotlight will be on Ward — and every other member of the Wildcats’ offense.
There’s nothing trendy about the way the Hawkeyes play. They line up and try to simply outplay the opponent. Of course Ward, an offensive lineman who loves contact, can’t wait for the opportunity.
“That’s their structure on defense is they’re going to challenge us one-on-one physically,” Ward said. “They’re not really trying any tricks or anything. It’s really going to be about execution.
“It’s not elegant. This is really going back almost into high school when you first started playing. It’s you versus the other guy across from you.”