STILLWATER — The skies were dreary, the clouds heavy, the rains steady. A perfect day for football. Every Saturday is perfect for Bryant Ward. His name is likely unfamiliar to even the most diehard college football fan. The same goes for his story, how he went from longtime Stillwater kid and Oklahoma State fan to Cowboy walk-on and OSU starter. Yes, Ward starts for the Cowboys. And on Saturday when the weather was lousy and the opponent was even worse, the fullback provided some perspective about college football. The guy playing perhaps one of the most unglamorous position of them all offered a bit of sunshine. No matter what — whether sun or rain, instant classics or blowouts — this game is fun. "I just came here to play football,” Ward said with a shrug, "so I'm not worried about a lot of stuff.” Good thing. His job is blocking defenders who are bigger and faster and stronger than he is so that Zac Robinson can complete passes and Kendall Hunter can score touchdowns. They get the good stuff, and he gets the grunt work. Ward isn't even a scholarship player. "Bryant's a glue guy,” Cowboy co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer said after OSU defeated Missouri State 57-13. "He keeps everything going, and he doesn't get a lot of glory.” So, why do it? Since Ward started playing football in fifth grade, he talked about playing in college. It wasn't a maybe. It wasn't a possibility. It was a sure thing. "Bryant's always been a very determined individual,” his father, Kemp, said. "He's really confident.” But because of an injury during his junior season at Stillwater High, recruiters knew little of Ward. Then, the Cowboy coaches called and asked him to walk on. There was just one hang-up — they wanted him to play fullback even though he'd only played tailback and linebacker in high school. "I didn't have a lot of experience blocking ... but I thought I could figure it out,” he said, smiling. "I wanted to go to a bigger school and see if I could make it.” His dad said, "I expected him to work really hard for two years and maybe work his way into a spot.” Two years? More like two weeks. That's how long it took Ward to land a spot on OSU's kickoff unit. He played special teams last season, then when fullbacks John Johnson and Jeremiah Burton left during the off-season, Ward became the starter. He did not, however, become a star. When co-offensive coordinator Trooper Taylor arrived last spring, he knew Ward by his nickname, "Stillwater.” "I didn't even know what his name was for the longest,” Taylor said. Fullback is a little-used position in the Cowboys' high-octane offense. Any time they throw defenses a curve and play out of the I formation, though, Ward has to do his part. "His role is unique in that he's not going to get the ball more than likely,” Brewer said. "You may throw him a pass every once in a while, and every blue moon, you may hand him the ball.” He shook his head. "Don't even ask for the ball.” Ward doesn't. Heck, he counts the first play of the season opener against Washington as his favorite. "I got to go in and cut someone,” he said of blocking around the corner. Undersized at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, Ward is content with his unsung duties. "I've gotten a lot of opportunities to be where I am,” he said. "I appreciate it all the time. "It's always fun to go out there no matter what.” That makes every Saturday a perfect day for football.
It hasn't taken Bryant Ward long to make an impact with Oklahoma State. BY MATT STRASEN, THE OKLAHOMAN