TALLAHASSEE, Fla. The night was more toast than roast.
With Charlie Ward, it seemed it was as tough to come up with good zingers as it once was to tackle the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.
But Wards former teammates and coaches did their best to take fans down memory lane and share their love and appreciation for the player who helped Florida to an Elite Eight appearance in basketball in 1993 and then guided the football team to the national championship nine months later.
Few athletes have tried to play two sports at the college level, and most eventually choose one over the other. Ward thinks that theres little chance of another two-sport standout in football and basketball.
It probably wont ever happen again, Ward said. Just because of the times. It wont ever happen again, and if it does, it will be like a Deion Sanders-type. It would be someone really, really special. And somewhere down the line, hes probably going to make a decision on whether he is going to choose basketball or football professionally.
Ward excelled in both sports in college and made the choice in 1994 to pursue pro basketball. He played 11 seasons in the NBA, averaging 6.3 points and 4.0 rebounds from 1994-2005 with the Knicks, Spurs and Rockets.
And while its hard to believe, it was 1992 20 years ago this fall that Ward took over as FSUs starting quarterback. He led the Seminoles to an 11-1 mark that season, throwing for 2,647 yards and 22 touchdowns.
While the only blemish for the Seminoles that year was the Wide Right II loss at Miami, there were some narrow escapes. Perhaps the most important move was made at Atlanta, with Georgia Tech leading 21-7 in the second half.
Ward and the coaching staff discussed using him solely in the shotgun and without a huddle, and the Fast Break Offense was born.
You were probably the first great shotgun quarterback, former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said via video message. Everybody uses the shotgun now and runs the no-huddle. Thats what you were doing 20 years ago.
It wasnt all smooth from the start. Ward threw 17 interceptions his junior season in 1992, and the roasters found this as perhaps the best chance to zing the ex-QB.
I used to look at the opposing DBs, and they said, 'We are playing against Charlie Ward,'" said former FSU fullback William Floyd, now a Seminoles radio analyst. He was averaging three, four interceptions a game. We were still going to win the game, but he was going to throw some interceptions before he got off the field.
But Ward learned from his mistakes in a 1993 season thats one of the best statistically of any college quarterback.
Ward passed for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions as FSU went 12-1 (only loss was a 31-24 defeat by Notre Dame) and captured the national title with an 18-16 win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. His 69.5 completion percentage remains the best in program history.
Ward is a beloved figure by many Florida State fans, and former left tackle Forrest Conolly highlighted that when it was his turn to roast.
I blocked for a Heisman Trophy winner, Conolly said. I blocked for someone that won every single award that they were eligible for. ... There are many men that have man crushes on you. The man crush for Charlie Ward is deep.
While Ward was a flashy player, he never showed it off the field or court. In the 1993 season, FSU fans wanted him to strike the Heisman pose after a touchdown in a blowout home victory.
But Ward refused to draw attention to himself or show up the opponent. He is well known for being shy and extremely soft-spoken, and teammates joked that its often difficult to hear him.
Everyone needs to raise their glasses to the only Heisman Trophy quarterback that you need to take a 5-hour energy drink to hold a conversation with, Conolly said.
Ward, now 41, has never been much of a talker. But hes always listened and learned and is passing on his knowledge as the football coach at Houstons Westbury Christian. He said he has taken the lessons learned from coaches at FSU and in the NBA to help build the framework for his coaching beliefs.
Its fun, but its tough, Ward said. You put in a lot of time to prepare for a game, prepare for a lot of things. You hope that you can get it across to your kids. I can understand what the coaches were going through when I was out there either messing up or doing well.