Oklahoma State boasts a combined 253 All-Americans between its football (34) and wrestling (219) programs. John Henry Ward is the only athlete on both of those lists.
Ward, who died in December at the age of 64 after a battle with cancer, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night.
In 1969, he became an All-American tackle in football and in wrestling after taking third place at heavyweight in the NCAA Championships.
The Tulsa Rogers graduate was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 1970 where he would play on two Super Bowl teams for legendary coach Bud Grant during his six-year career.
“He was just one of those very gifted athletes,” said Terry Brown, who played with Ward at OSU and with the Vikings. “He played on both sides of the ball in college, and also was an All-American wrestler. You just don't see that sort of athlete very often.”
Brown not only remembers Ward as a great athlete, but also as a beloved teammate and friend. When Brown came over to the Vikings from the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972, Ward was the first person to welcome his college teammate to Minnesota.
“John met me at the airport and I stayed with him my first few days in Minnesota,” Brown said. “We spent the next four years playing together for the Vikings. He was a good all-around guy. That's just the way he was.
“He was very smart and very compassionate. He helped people all the time, and was very well-liked by his teammates. I don't know of anyone that didn't like him. I'm going to miss him. I always enjoyed the time we had together.”
The two-sport star was also known as an avid outdoorsman.
“He was a great fisherman, and a hunter,” Brown said. “He really loved to do that. In fact, he went hunting with Bud Grant, when he was our coach, a lot in the offseason.”
Fellow Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Baughman remembers Ward as a gifted wrestler. The two wrestled each other to a tie for the 1965 AAU state championship.
“I told him that he had a lot of potential and I thought he could be an Olympic and world champion,” Baughman said. “I had already been on a world championship and Olympic team, so I said to him ‘the sky is the limit for you.' Of course, I think he was smart to choose the more lucrative profession with a football career.”
Baughman was eventually awarded the gold medal from their match after a somewhat controversial tiebreaker criteria was determined. Once he heard Ward would be inducted with him, Baughman had plans to bring the medal along.
“I was planning to bring that medal with me to give to him and tell him it was his turn to have it,” Baughman said. “I had followed his career after that match and was excited to call him and congratulate him when I heard I'd be going in with him. I was really sad to hear he had passed away.”
Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame series
Today's story on former OSU wrestler John Henry Ward is the first in a series of seven stories on the 2013 inductees into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
Here is a look at the rest of the scheduled stories:
* Wednesday: OU wrestler Wayne Baughman
* Thursday: Gymnast Nadia Comaneci
* Friday: OCU/NFL football player LeRoy “Ace” Gutowsky
* Saturday: Basketball player/coach Bill Self Jr.
* Sunday: Thunder chairman Clay Bennett
* Monday: OU quarterback Jimmy Harris
* Aug. 6: Coverage of the OK Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony