Miami’s ‘alpha’ quarterback Cam Ward crushes it in UM interview before spring game

New Hurricanes quarterback Cam Ward did everything right Thursday.

And that was off the field.

Ward, 21, the prolific signal-caller who with one change of heart might have changed the University of Miami’s football trajectory, addressed the local media for the first time since spring practice began in early March.

“How ya all doing?” began the energy-infused Ward, who transferred from Washington State and has thrown for 13,874 career yards and 119 touchdowns with 30 interceptions in four seasons — the first two at the FCS’s Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

Ward happily answered questions for 10 minutes about life on and off Greentree Field, and explained his decision to return to college and choose UM nearly two weeks after announcing he was entering the NFL Draft.

“That was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make, from thinking I was ready for the NFL Draft to knowing I’m still not done yet in college,’’ Ward, from West Columbia, Texas, said. “There’s still food left on the table for myself, for this team.”

Of course, the Canes Collective Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deal Ward reportedly received for playing his final season at UM — a source said it was in the $1 million to $2 million range — didn’t hurt.

“The guys we return from last season — majority of O-line, receiving corps back, key pieces of the defense. … I feel like this is the right program not only for myself but for guys who are here right now or going to end up coming here. We’re trying to build.

“Miami, we’ve got to get back up there.”

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Cam Ward (1) throws the ball during practice inside the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility at the University of Miami on Monday, March 4, 2023 in Coral Gables, Fla.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback Cam Ward (1) throws the ball during practice inside the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility at the University of Miami on Monday, March 4, 2023 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Thursday, the penultimate day of spring practice before Saturday’s 4 p.m. spring game, was the first time in years that UM brought out a newly arrived starting quarterback to be interviewed as the bona fide starter in spring — months before fall camp begins. None of the other quarterbacks were made available.

Including Ward, UM has five scholarship quarterbacks. The others: Albany transfer Reese Poffenbarger, redshirt freshman Emory Williams, freshman Judd Anderson and redshirt sophomore Jacurri Brown. Brown, whose only 2023 game came in the Pinstripe Bowl after former starter Tyler Van Dyke announced he was transferring, is expected by many to enter the transfer portal. The portal reopens Monday and closes April 30.

Minutes before Ward spoke, UM coach Mario Cristobal said Ward had “earned trust because of his time invested and the fact that he’s an alpha. Your quarterback needs to be an alpha.”

“He’s up there in the office every waking free moment he has,’’ Cristobal said. “He gets there early and leaves late. He pulls aside the receivers and tight ends and watches film with them. He takes the linemen out to eat. He spends time with the running backs and then late after practice he does more stuff with other guys that maybe were off a little bit. Then he comes in on Saturday and gets extra work.

“There was a feeling all along that no matter how it initially played out that he wanted to be a Miami Hurricane.”

‘The call’

Cristobal, whose Hurricanes finished 5-7 his first season in 2022 and 7-6 last season, said when the “call came in’’ from Ward that he had changed his mind and was coming to UM, “I don’t know if I wanted to high-five or jump through the screen and put him in a headlock. But the wait was worth it.

“Guys like that that can make change, make a big difference not just as a player but as a human being,’’ don’t come around often. “So far, so good. He hasn’t played a game yet. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. It’s been an awesome spring, a lot of progress across the board. But mostly the team is finding ways to compete in everything we do.

“Very happy that Cam Ward is here.”

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Cam Ward speaks during a press conference at Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables, Florida on Thursday, April 11, 2024.
Miami Hurricanes quarterback Cam Ward speaks during a press conference at Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables, Florida on Thursday, April 11, 2024.

Ward, who wears No. 1 and is 6-2, 223 pounds, is an accurate, laser-throwing quarterback who is described by his teammates as a smart, explosive, trash-talking, calm but extremely confident player.

“You don’t see an NFL quarterback every day,’’ said cornerback Rob Stafford.

“The first day Cam was here I wanted to test him out,’’ ACC defensive rookie of the year Rueben Bain said. “He was throwing the ball on the field with [JojoTrader]. I was by the exit on my way out of the indoor practice facility and he was 60 yards away. I put my arms out and he thew it on the dot. Didn’t have to move an inch.’’

“That boy good! Cam be doing hot tamales!’’ freshman linebacker Cam “Bobby” Pruitt said. “You wouldn’t think a quarterback would talk trash to a linebacker. He dishes it out to everybody.’’

Asked about his trash talk, Ward, said: “Somebody’s gotta do it. I really do it to get the D-line activated. If they hear it from me, the whole team going to start doing it. You come out and talk a little something, they going to end [talking] right back. It’s all love at the end of the day.”

The numbers

At Incarnate Word, Ward won the Jerry Rice Award as the best FCS freshman (2,260 yards and 24 touchdowns), with four interceptions during the pandemic-shortened, six-game campaign played in the spring of 2021. He followed that in the fall of ‘21 with 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions.

In 2022 at Washington State, Ward threw for 3,231 yards and 23 touchdowns, with nine picks. And this past season, he was 323 of 485 (66.6 percent) for 3,735 yards and 25 touchdowns, with seven picks.

Ward acknowledged his fumbling problems, having fumbled 46 times the last four years, per Pro Football Focus. Last season, Ward fumbled 14 times, losing eight.

“Ball security is job security in my position,’’ Ward said. “That’s something I’ve been putting an emphasis on since I got here. It’s on me to protect the ball.’’

More Ward:

On UM’s offense under coordinator Shannon Dawson: “It’s real good. I describe it as an air raid, just in the huddle... There are going to be a lot teams in the country that are not going to have answers for us.”

On his football journey: “I had one offer in high school. I carry that with me every day. Ever time I wake up I tell myself, ‘Let’s go get it!’’’

On what fans should expect: “Someone who plays with an edge. What you’ll see from me, from the team — From the first snap to the last we’re going to play hard.”

On UM: “It’s been everything I expected. The culture is perfect with what Coach Cristobal has been doing. I’m just happy to be here.”

On his favorite part of living here: “Fishing for sure.”

On West Coast vs. East Coast vibes: “East Coast. You got more stuff on the East Coast. West Coast is only known for Cali. East Coast you got Florida, the Carolinas — the Carolinas are underrated. You got New York.

“It’s just a different vibe. West Coast is all the pretty stuff out there. We like to work over here.”

On his least favorite part: “The traffic. The traffic ain’t no joke.”

Ward was asked how he’ll get the Canes back.

We don’t really get into that,’’ he said, “because at the end of the day we haven’t won the ACC championship. So, we’re really just starting from the ground up, going day by day, not worrying about Aug. 31 [in the opener at Florida].’’

Ward, in lauding his offensive line “trench babies,” said he intends to “spread the ball around’’ and “hand the ball to the running backs.’’

“We’re all gonna eat.’’