John Henry Ward, a two-sport All-American at Oklahoma State and a lineman on Bud Grant's grand Minnesota Viking teams in the 1970s, died of cancer Tuesday in Oklahoma City. He was 64.
“He was much more than an amazing football player and wrestler,” said Ross Powell, who played little league football on a team coached by Ward. “His post-NFL career is every bit as impressive as his football career. He was a mentor to hundreds of kids, not only as a football coach but a life coach as well.”
Ward came to OSU from Tulsa Rogers and became a 1969 All-American tackle in football and a 1969 All-American in wrestling, with a third-place finish at heavyweight in the NCAA Championships.
Ward played on two Viking Super Bowl teams.
“One of the most likable guys there,” said Terry Brown, a teammate of Ward with both OSU and the Vikings. “Everybody liked to be around him. He was an ultimate teammate. Would go to battle for anybody.”
Ward loved to hunt. He suffered a broken leg in a Viking game. Two weeks later, his cast came off. Turns out Ward would go hunting with his broken leg. So doctors put him in an L-shaped cast so he couldn't walk.
“Bud Grant would come to Oklahoma and go hunting with him,” Brown said of the iconic Minnesota coach. “They spent a lot of time hunting together.”
After football, Ward ran a cattle ranch, managed a farm/ranch retail store, was elected a county commissioner and eventually became executive director for the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma.
In 2002, Ward became vice president of The Poultry Federation and director of its Oklahoma City operations.
Services are pending with Corbett Funeral & Cremation Services of Oklahoma City.