After one season on the Akron football team, Demetrius' grades took a dip and he was quickly ineligible.
The experience has shaped the way the Wards have raised their children, three boys and a girl.
“I use myself as an example of what not to do,” Demetrius said. “You've got to be focused. You can't go in there like you're half-cocked. After football season, I didn't worry about school. I use that a lot in telling them not to do the things I've done.”
The message has sunk in with D.J., the youngest of the four.
“Just be respectful and don't do anything crazy,” Ward said of his attitude. “Don't do anything your mom would be disappointed of.”
Demetrius and Vanessa set the tone.
“They preached hard work, and with hard work comes all of the spoils,” Ward said. “I never was one to showboat and boast, though.”
It's an attitude that Ward has shown since he was a toddler.
“Even when he was 3 or 4, he was that determined,” Demetrius said. “He was a different kind of kid. He reminds me of Lee (the second of the Wards' four children). If you tell them they can't do anything, they'll do it just to prove you wrong. They have an inner drive.”
Both father and son say it was a big deal when Ohio State started recruiting Ward.
“It was in my head for a little bit,” Ward said. “I was thinking about going there.”
Oklahoma, though, felt like home. Ward was at many OU home games last year, getting to know not only the inner workings of the football program but the campus as well.
When he visited Norman for OU's spring game in early April, he didn't expect to walk away having committed.
But during the day, he felt a pull.
“I knew where everything was and what to expect,” Ward said. “It just felt like a fit. There was no more exploring that I needed to do.”
Sitting with his sister, Courtney, and parents, during the game, Ward told them he wanted to commit.
“Are you sure,” Demetrius asked.
“It's time,” Ward said.
MORE FROM NEWSOK
No. 1: D.J. Ward
School: Douglass (Played last season at Lawton)
Position: Defensive end
Recruited by: Committed to Oklahoma. Also has offers from Arizona, Auburn, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Tulsa among others.