Charlie Ward (born October 12, 1970 in Thomasville, Georgia) is an American football, basketball, and baseball player. Ward won the 1993 Heisman Trophy as a quarterback for Florida State University, and subsequently led the Seminoles to their first-ever National Championship when FSU defeated Nebraska 18-16 in the 1994 Orange Bowl. The Seminoles had suffered their only defeat of the season to a second-ranked Notre Dame team, but their path to the National Championship was cleared a week later when the Irish were upset at home by an unranked Boston College squad. Charlie was only the second African-American quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy, following Andre Ware in 1989; the third African-American quarterback to win was Troy Smith in 2006. When Ward won the Heisman, he set the record (it has since been eclipsed) for the greatest margin of victory in the voting. He was also the only Heisman winner to play in the NBA. Other awards include the Sullivan Award that year. In 2006 he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Though Ward did not play baseball in college, he was drafted as a pitcher by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1993 free agent draft and by the New York Yankees in 1994.
Ward was a model student-athlete at Florida State. As a senior and captain of the team in 1993, he voluntarily approached Seminoles head coach Bobby Bowden about a difficult situation surrounding incoming freshman Warrick Dunn, whose mother, policewoman Betty Smothers, was killed in the line of duty during Dunn's senior year of high school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Charlie served as a surrogate big brother to Dunn during the latter's first year in Tallahassee, helping him through a trying time by becoming his roommate and friend. Because of his integrity, Ward also managed to escape the fallout that many of his teammates received for the notorious "free shoes" scandal that surfaced in the months after FSU won the National Championship in 1994. In his senior year at Florida State, he also served as Student Government Vice-President, after he was asked to run by the Monarchy Party, a student government reform organization.
Upon graduation, Ward made his intentions clear that should he not be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, his desire was to play in the NBA. Accordingly, Ward was not selected in the NFL Draft, so instead of pursuing a career as a football player in the NFL, and having been chosen in the 1st round of the 1994 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks, he began his career in the NBA as a point guard. His agent, Craig McKenzie, was called by NFL teams (the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs) for Ward's services on the football field. Major League Baseball teams also made several inquiries during Ward's early professional years, as did the Professional Tennis Association.
During his NBA career, Ward established himself as a good three-point shooter, a reliable ball distributor, and a respected floor leader. Despite not being known as a spectacular basketball talent, McKenzie still garnered for Ward a six-year, $36 million dollar deal for the 1997-98 season. Ward was selected to the participate in the 1998 NBA All-Star three-point competition. He soon helped the Knicks reach the 1999 NBA Finals, before falling to the San Antonio Spurs.
He went to the Spurs in January 2004, after a trade-and-waive between the Knicks and the Phoenix Suns, that cut him the next day. After maintaining relatively good health over his first decade in the league, injuries caused Ward to miss most of the 2004-05 season, that he played for the Houston Rockets, and put his career in jeopardy. Because of the injuries, Ward retired.
Off the court, Ward is one of the NBA's best role models, as he is known for his extensive charitable work through groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
In 2001, while a player for the New York Knicks, it was discovered that Charlie Ward had made some disparaging comments about Jews during a Bible-study session, comments that were eventually leaked to the press. Among the comments made: "Jews are stubborn... tell me, why did they persecute Jesus unless he knew something they didn’t want to accept... They had his blood on their hands."
There was an expected amount of outrage directed at Ward from Jewish groups, as well as the Knicks organization and the public at large. Ward defended himself by indicating that "I didn't mean to offend any one group because that's not what I'm about. I have friends that are Jewish. Actually, my friend is a Jewish guy, and his name is Jesus Christ." He also noted that the quotes were taken out of context, as he had stated that "Jews are stubborn" in speaking to what he perceived to be their disinclination to convert to Christianity.
Eventually Charlie did apologize for his statements, with his apology being accepted by the Anti-Defamation League.