D.J. Ward has felt like his football career has been in administrative limbo for nearly six months.
First, it was the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
Now, it's the NCAA.
Ward, who had to sit out his senior season following an OSSAA ruling, is still waiting on clearance to join his new team at Oklahoma.
Ward was one of 24 Sooner signees announced Wednesday and one of four who are already on campus. The Sooners entered the day with 23 commitments and picked up cornerback L.J. Moore late in the day.
Ward, the former Lawton star who graduated from Southmoore in December, has been enrolled at OU since last month but is waiting on the NCAA to clear his paperwork so that he can start working out with the team.
“I just want to play football again,” Ward said Wednesday as he came back to Southmoore for a signing ceremony.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops said he hoped Ward would be cleared soon so he could start to make up for his lost senior season.
“Hopefully, if the NCAA will find time to go through his records and get him cleared, by the time he's on the field, hopefully he'll make that up in spring ball,” Stoops said.
The past year hasn't been easy on Ward.
The family decided to move to the Oklahoma City area late in the summer, and Ward initially enrolled at Douglass.
Because the family started off living in the Southmoore district, he had to file for a hardship waiver with the OSSAA. That waiver was approved, but when the family decided to stay in the Southmoore district and transfer Ward to the school closest to his home, the subsequent waiver was denied.
“It had its low points and its high points but I fought through it and I'm better for it,” Ward said. “It tested my patience.”
It was also hard on his family.
“I guess you could say it's bittersweet,” said Demetrius Ward, D.J.'s father. “It was tough watching him sitting there with the decisions that I made, that my wife made, affecting him the way they did.
“But at the same time you look at the way he handled it and we're just so proud of him.”
Even though he never played a down for Southmoore, Ward stuck around the team and worked with the players on their technique while keeping himself in shape as much as possible.
“D.J.'s been dying to play again,” Stoops said. “He's had a great attitude through it all. He's continued to lift and run and you can tell he looks like he's in excellent shape.”
For now, Ward is getting acclimated to being in college.
His first day on campus, he received a parking ticket.
“It was a freshman mistake,” Ward said. “I really didn't know where to park. I'm learning.”
Wednesday, before he headed to Southmoore for the ceremony, Ward took care of a couple of classes, including a pilates class.
“It's different,” Ward said. “It's actually a challenge. I can feel it stretching me out.”
He'd would much rather be working out with the team though.