CEDAR RAPIDS — Imagine walking out of the dark tunnel to thousands of fans yelling your name, wearing your jersey and ready to watch you play in the Super Bowl.
It’s a dream most young football have at some point in their life.
There are few who actually go on to live that dream, and even fewer who are from Iowa. One of those people is working at Washington High School.
Dedric Ward was born in Cedar Rapids and grew up playing football. In high school, Ward was a running back and a receiver for the Warriors, but liked playing as a receiver more.
“That mix of wanting the ball but not wanting to get hit every play kind of led me to be more of a receiver,” Ward said.
Ward went on to play receiver at the University of Northern Iowa for four years.
“The smaller school and the winning mentality that came with it made it fit my style as opposed to a bigger school,” Ward said.
While at UNI, Ward amassed more than 4,000 receiving yards as well as 50 touchdowns.
After putting up impressive numbers at UNI, Ward was drafted in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft, the 88th overall pick by the New York Jets. He played with them until 2000.
After a little bit of moving around, including stops with the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, Ward found himself on the New England roster midway through the 2003 season and played in Super Bowl XXXVIII (38) with the Patriots.
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“There was so much stuff surrounding the game in the weeks leading up to it was so overwhelming.” said Ward, who ended his career in 2004 with the Dallas Cowboys. “Almost to the point of it being bigger than the game itself. There’s so much media and fan attention, but it was an exciting experience. It’s something that every player wants to achieve.”
Today, Ward chooses to take what he learned in the NFL and apply it his everyday life.
“It’s so amazing how many things I found are parallel between life and the NFL,” he said. “As a coach, as a mentor and as a friend.”
Ward, part of the support staff at Washington and a wide receiver coach for the Warrior football team, loves to use his life experiences to be a better person. The lessons he learned helped him shape the life he has today and gave him the ability to guide and help others.