DeKALB – Though his time with the program has been short since being hired in December, Northern Illinois wide receivers coach Thad Ward has had no problem getting adjusted to his new job.
It certainly helps to get an endorsement from his predecessor. Ward, who previously held the same position at Western Michigan, was hired after former receivers coach Frisman Jackson followed Dave Doeren to North Carolina State, and Jackson is a big reason why Ward is in DeKalb.
“When the transition happened, he came in and said, ‘I’ve got a guy who would do a great job of knowing the room and getting in with these guys, and he’s a good football coach,’” head coach Rod Carey said. “And when Coach Jackson said that to me, I immediately called.”
After his hiring, Ward wasted no time getting involved. His assignment was finishing up Class of 2013 recruiting in Michigan, which meant maintaining a solid relationship with Detroit safety Mycial Allen. Allen, with whom Ward had a prior relationship from WMU, had spurned an offer from Iowa to join the Huskies.
Now he’s taken over two places in recruiting he’s very familiar with: Chicago and south Florida. He’s been working through Illinois for the past six years, and as a former player at Central Florida, he has established many connections in the area. Ward is extremely passionate about recruiting, which makes him very valuable to the program.
“Recruiting is what I do,” he said. “It’s like shaving, you’ve got to do it every day.”
But he’s also committed to putting in work on the field. At WMU, he helped to develop Jaime Wilson into the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2012. With the loss of Martel Moore and Perez Ashford, he’ll need to do the same with the Huskies’ crop of wideouts.
This year’s receiving corps features no seniors and only two juniors, and Ward’s coaching philosophy seems like a perfect fit with the youth around him.
“His style of coaching is really technical and disciplined, and that’s good for all of us,” sophomore wide receiver Jacob Brinlee said. “We’ve got a lot of really good athletes, and if we can just work on that aspect, we’ll be good.”
Ward also referred to himself as “pretty cool,” which can’t hurt when building relationships. He’s only twelve years out of college, giving him the ability to relate to what his players are going through.
Ultimately, he’s here to develop his players and, as he put it, help out Jordan Lynch. Carey got the guy he wanted, and Ward said the feeling is reciprocal.
“Ever since I got the chance to go against NIU as a player and twice as a coach, it’s always been a blue-collar mentality,” Ward said. “And getting around these guys and the family atmosphere, there’s no other place like that.”