Leaders are born. And Greg Ward is finally laying claim to his birthright.
No one would have guessed at this time last year that Ward would be mentoring the Eagles’ young receivers. Not only is the 25-year-old doing that, he’s also gunning for a starting spot as the team’s slot receiver. Ward’s contributions down the stretch last season were a leading catalyst for Philly claiming the NFC East title.
Several high-ranking Eagles officials, including head coach Doug Pederson and wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead, have casually name-dropped Ward as a leader in the room. The example he sets, plus his hard work and dedication to his craft, is infectious. Ward’s leadership is right up there with veterans Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson.
“We’re all working together. I’m bringing them along, Alshon and DeSean are bringing me along,” Ward told reporters. “We’re all one unit, one team, we all need each other. Those young guys try to lean on me, ask me questions and I’m an open book.”
Moorehead even hinted that Ward may be a few pegs above his older teammates in terms of teaching the younger guys and instilling confidence. He’s exceeded all expectations.
“Greg is one of the leaders of the room, if not the leader of the room,” Moorehead said. “So far, he’s done nothing but exceed my expectations.”
Keeping That Edge, Keeping That Fire Lit
Ward has been running with the first-team offense for the majority of the team’s padded practices. He’s manning the Y position, better known as slot receiver. It seems his roster spot is secure, but don’t tell the former practice-squad member that.
“I don’t have a starting spot right now,” Ward said. “I’m still fighting every single day. My mindset will never change. I have to outwork everbody, not just here but around the league, just making sure I’m on top of my game, making sure the young guys in my position are staying on top of their stuff.”
The former college quarterback at Houston has seamlessly adapted to wide receiver, on an Eagles team starved for experienced pass-catchers. Ward started the final three games of 2019 and flashed for 175 yards on 21 receptions. He averaged 8.3 yards-per-catch during that stretch, plus one huge confidence-building touchdown versus Washington.
“I never look at it like I made it, that never crosses my mind,” Ward said. “Every single day, you have to work, it’s a job interview and you have to go out there and put your best foot forward. I want to be better than I was last year and continue to be better everyday.”
It’s all about keeping that fire lit, keeping that edge. A lot of players talk about having a chip on their shoulder. Ward carries a hefty block of wood on his back everywhere he goes.
“I’m going to always feel like I’m clawing regardless, keep that edge about me, keep that fire lit,” Ward said. “Honestly, I feel confident just being on the field, regardless if it’s outside or inside, I’m just here to help the team win.”
If that means staying after practice to correct mistakes or to massage his route running, he’s doing it. He routinely sticks around the practice facility late, getting extra time on the JUGS machine and watching tape. The only way to make him leave the building is by kicking him out.
“After practice, I’ll stay to whatever time I can, whatever time they allow me to,” Ward said. “If something happens and I didn’t like it, I’m going to work it out after prctice and the time doesn’t even matter. Until I feel comfrtable with it, that’s when I’ll stop.”
Hopefully it stops on a starting role and increased responsibility this year in the Eagles’ new-look offense.