SAN ANTONIO — Wide receiver Greg Ward Jr., the former star quarterback at John Tyler High School and the University of Houston, had a message for any defender trying to cover him Saturday night; good luck.
Thanks to his consistent route running and blazing speed, the former Philadelphia Eagles receiver played a pivotal part of the San Antonio Commanders’ offense during the team’s 15-6 victory over the San Diego Fleet before 27,857 at the Alamodome.
Although he was unable to score a touchdown, Ward was just glad to be back on the turf.
“Everything starts with preparation in practice,” Ward said. “We’ve been working extremely hard at practice and we got to put the product out on the field. A victory feels good but we’re going back to work tomorrow.”
Ward finished the evening with five receptions for 65 yards. The highlight of the evening came in the second quarter on a 39-yard pass from quarterback Logan Woodside. On a fly route, the former Houston Cougar dived forward to make the grab, popping up to the sounds of the Alamodome in disbelief and awe.
For Ward, it’s a simple concept; if the ball is in the air, you best grab it.
“That’s always been the way I’ve played,” Ward said. “See ball, get ball. It’s a mentality I live by but it was a great throw from Logan.”
Perhaps best known as a quarterback, Ward’s unique skills allowed Mike Riley’s offense to be a bit innovative. Late in the second quarter, Ward received a handoff on a trick sweep. Looking to pass, Ward delivered a spiral in the direction of fellow receiver Mekale McKay. Lucky for San Diego, safety Ron Brooks was able to break up the foreseeable touchdown.
“It brought me back to my old days,” Ward said. “I wish we would have scored on it but I’m sure there’s going to be another opportunity in the future.”
The Commanders passing offense collected 255 yards under the direction of Woodside. Although the 24-year-old quarterback struggled at moments throughout the evening, Ward sees promise in his future. After nearly missing a year of football, the duo believe they can build on their connection and become an elite duo on offense.
A late addition to the Commanders roster, Ward blossomed in the short time. Now a full-time starter, his versatility and improvisation skills will be able to keep defenses on their toes, wondering if the quarterback turned wideout will be catching the touchdown or throwing it.
“I was really pleased when we got Greg and as I learned more about him, I was even more pleased,” Commanders coach Mike Riley said. “He’s a terrific athlete who can do a lot of things. He’s a versatile player and we’re really glad to have him.”
As the Commanders still remain high following their victory, work will begin for the Orlando Apollos in the coming days. Following their 40-6 victory over the Atlanta Legends, the Apollos will have Ward and San Antonio’s offense gearing up for a must-see event come Sunday (3 p.m. in San Antonio, TV: CBSSN).
He’s not worried however. Seeing the success of their defense and strengths of the offense, Ward knows what needs to be fixed moving forward. It’s part of the game of football and he’s up for the task.
But on a night where a new league was born, so was a new star. Few impressed quite like the 2015 Peach Bowl hero all evening and only a handful could come close to his versatile skills. In the Alliance of American Football, Ward is ready to show what the Commanders can do when you put the ball in their hands.
“How close we’ve bonded throughout this process speaks volumes,” Ward said. “We just got to keep building each other up. If we do that, we’re going places, just wait.”