No. 2 Athlete of the Year: Jimmie Ward

By Frank Gogola

Senior safety Jimmie Ward is Sports’ No. 2 Athlete of 2013-2014, having put together one of the best seasons among all defensive backs in the country.

Ward finished as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top defensive back. He garnered All-MAC First Team Defense honors for the second year in a row.

With his ball-hawking skills and good hands, Ward snagged seven interceptions, running one back for a touchdown. His seven interceptions ranked first on the Huskies, first in the MAC and tied for second in the nation.

Ward also led NIU in total tackles (95) and passes defended (17). He recorded 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

At NIU Pro Day on March 7, Ward, who measured in at 5-foot-10 ½ inches and 197 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, recorded a 38-inch vertical jump and posted a broad jump of 10 ½ feet — all with a fractured foot.

“… Most impressive were his big plays because they came at critical points in time and had a huge impact on momentum and the outcome of games,” said Jay Niemann, defensive coordinator and safeties coach.