Cam Ward hasn't played a real game yet at Miami. He's already the Hurricanes' unquestioned leader

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Miami quarterback Cam Ward tells stories with a smile. He laughs a lot. He's a high-energy guy on the football field, engaging with teammates, cheering on his offense and chirping at his defense. He seems like the happiest person on the field.

It's only a little bit of an act.

Deep down, Ward still plays with the anger that he's had throughout his college career. A zero-star recruit coming out of high school, a product of a Wing-T offense, too short, too this, too that ... Ward — who had his first spring game with the Hurricanes on Saturday after transferring in over the winter from Washington State — remembers every doubt that was cast his way.

“I carry all of that with me every day,” Ward said. “You've got to have something to keep you going. The time you get complacent, that's the time you can let people pass you by.”

Ward has swagger, and that's what the Hurricanes were looking for. There's no FBS quarterback returning this season who averaged more yards in 2023 than Ward — his 311 yards per contest last year was behind only Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix and Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels of LSU in the national rankings.

And of all the quarterbacks expected back in college football this fall, no matter the level, only Oregon's Dillon Gabriel has passed for more yards than Ward. Miami's new leader has thrown for 13,876 yards and 119 touchdowns in his four college seasons — the first two at FCS member Incarnate Word, the last two at Washington State.

“I think quickly, he earned trust," Miami coach Mario Cristobal said. "And he earned trust in the fact that he’s up there in the office every waking free moment that he has, and he gets there early, and he leaves late. He pulls aside the receivers and the tight ends and he watched film with them, and he takes the lineman out to eat, and he spends time with the running backs ...

"Trust and confidence is earned. It's not just given away. What he has done, he has earned — earned — the trust of the people around him because of his time invested and the fact that he’s an alpha. And your quarterback needs to be an alpha.”

It was not easy for Miami to land Ward when he entered the transfer portal last winter. Ward also was considering jumping to the NFL, thinking that would have made it easier for him to satisfy his primary goal of taking care of his parents, both diabetics who have made tons of sacrifices for him and never miss his games. And for a time, it looked like he was going the pro route.

Then one Saturday night, after a workout, Ward just made up his mind. He called Miami recruiting coordinator Stephen Field and said he'd be on campus the next day. Field thought he meant to visit. Ward told him it would be for a bit longer than that.

“I feel like this was the perfect spot where God is going to prosper me,” Ward said. “I did a lot in my journey to get here. But I feel like I still have more on the table. A lot hasn't gone my way. I feel like that's a good thing. All that's going to help me now.”

Miami's concepts on offense are consistent with what Ward likes. He studied the offensive line and saw how well it protected quarterbacks last season. And if all that wasn't enough, one thing might have truly set Miami apart from other schools — he loves the fishing in South Florida.

Without even playing in a real game yet, Ward is already the unquestioned leader of the team. He's taken his offensive line out to all-you-can-eat steak dinners and is looking for more places where he can bring the group. He has full command of the huddle. He throws passes to little kids after practices (and tried to sneak them some footballs, something Miami's equipment staff didn't think was a great idea). He's even spoken directly with some Miami fans, making sure they know that he wants the Hurricanes to have a breakthrough season in 2024 just as badly as they do.

“We have unbelievable support here,” Ward said. “It's family. We're all family and they want us to be successful. They put a lot into us. We've got to show them it's paying off. And winning takes care of a lot of things. If we win some football games, everyone's going to be happy.”


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