Leading By Example

Leading By Example

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – He arrived at Miami with a dazzling resume and an impressive reputation.

Last year at Washington State, Cam Ward completed 66.7 percent of his passes and threw for 3,732 yards, with 25 touchdowns, while rushing for another eight scores.

He was the Pac-12’s regular-season leader in completions with 323 and was fourth in the country with an average of 311.3 passing yards per game.

Twice, he earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention accolades and even before season’s end, Ward was already generating his fair share of NFL buzz before the quarterback ultimately made the decision to transfer to Miami where Hurricanes fans – and coaches – celebrated.

But even amidst all the excitement, Ward knew he had to prove himself once he got on campus.

So, the veteran signal caller dove into offseason workouts. He made it a point to get to know his new teammates, inviting them over to his place to watch the Super Bowl and later, treating his offensive linemen to a steak dinner. He’s spent time building chemistry and working on his timing with Miami’s receivers. He’s gotten to know the running backs around him.

Now, with the Hurricanes set to wrap up spring drills on Saturday with their annual spring game, Ward has already emerged as one of Miami’s leaders, despite his short time in Coral Gables.

Teammates and coaches alike can’t stop raving about him, praising not only Ward’s skill level and work ethic, but the way he’s worked to connect with the players around him.

“He earned trust, and he earned trust by the fact that he’s up there in the office every waking free moment that he has,” Miami head coach Mario Cristobal said. “He gets there early, and he leaves late. He pulls aside the receivers and the tight ends, and he watches film with them, and he takes the linemen out to eat. He spends time with the running backs, and then he waits after practice and does some more stuff with other guys that maybe were off a little bit. And then he comes in on Saturdays and gets extra work.

“Trust and confidence [are] earned. It’s not just given away. What he has done, he has earned. He’s earned the trust of the people around him because of his time invested and the fact that he’s an alpha and well, your quarterback needs to be an alpha.”

Added linebacker Francisco Mauigoa, who played with Ward at Washington State in 2022, “He cracks jokes here and there. He’s very calm and he’s very confident. That’s the thing that sticks out at me the most. He’s a very confident individual. You see it on the field in practice. He’s out there, throwing balls effortlessly. He’s a very good leader. He’s very vocal when it’s time, but he has the talent to take this team all the way.”

Even one of Miami’s star defensive linemen, ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Rueben Bain, Jr., has been impressed.

“The first day, I wanted to test him out. He was throwing the ball on the field, and I was by the exit, and I told him to throw me the ball. I was like 60 yards away and he threw it on the dot,” Bain said. “That’s the thing that stuck out to me. … There have been a couple of times where I’ve tried to make an inside move and he’s made me regret it. He’s real swift on his feet.”

Still, as exciting as Ward’s first weeks on campus have been, the quarterback knows there is still plenty of work to do, even in the offseason before the Hurricanes return to Greentree for the start of preseason camp.

And Ward isn’t shying away from any of it.

He came to Miami with purpose – to help the Hurricanes compete for a championship and grow his own game as he pursues his dream of one day playing at the next level.

He understands the responsibility that comes with playing quarterback – and he understands that responsibility is even greater when suiting up for the same program once known as “Quarterback U” after it produced the likes of Jim Kelly, Vinny Testaverde, Gino Torretta, Steve Walsh, Craig Erickson, Bernie Kosar, Ken Dorsey and so many others.

“Being a quarterback at a school like this, I mean, it’s something that I don’t take for granted,” said Ward, who started his college career at Incarnate Word in Texas and had just one collegiate offer coming out of high school. “A lot of people want to be in this position. But it’s something you have to take seriously because at the end of the day, I get a lot of the say so in the outcome of the game, whether it’s throwing the ball, managing the offense, or running the ball. I take that role on, for sure, every day.”

As far as how he feels he fits in with his new team, Ward is confident he can be successful in offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s system.

It’s an offense Ward believes effectively showcases his skillset and Dawson, he says, has given him the freedom to play to his strengths.

“It’s a lot of concepts that I’ve been running since I started college,” Ward said. “But the thing about Coach Dawson is that he allows me to by myself in the pocket. … He lets me really coach up the receivers on what I see when I see the field, so that’s a big hats off to him. And when I came in, he took me under his wing and showed me the offense within a week. We’ve just been learning and growing ever since.”

Making his transition to Miami even easier, Ward said, is the fact he’s surrounded by a plethora of talented playmakers, from veteran linemen like Jalen Rivers and Anez Cooper to receivers like Xavier Restrepo, Jacolby George, Joshisa Trader and Isaiah Horton to tight ends like Elijah Arroyo, Cam McCormick, Elija Lofton and more.

All of them, he says, have the potential to be difference-makers for Miami and working together, all of them will only help the Hurricanes succeed.

“I told them, ‘We play fast, and we play hard.’ There are going to be a lot of teams in the country that aren’t going to have answers for us,” Ward said. “So, really, for my job, it’s just putting the ball in space. Those guys are going to make all the plays. The o-line is going to do the hard work. I just put the ball in play and let those guys eat.”