While Northern Illinois Huskies senior quarterback Jordan Lynch is the unquestioned leader of the offense, senior safety Jimmie Ward is expected to be the leader of the defense. However, unlike the offense which returns the majority of its starters, the Huskies’ defense returns only five starters.
Ward has been a major part of the defense in the past and will be expected to lead the young defense this season. He recorded 100 total tackles, the second-highest amount on the team, and added five passes defended, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble as the team went on to win the GoDaddy.com Bowl two seasons ago. In his junior campaign, he led the team with 104 total tackles and three interceptions, both career highs, and also added a career-high 14 passes defended and one forced fumble during the team’s Orange Bowl run.
Primed for another huge season, the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Mobile, Ala., native has already received preseason recognition. Ward was named to both Phil Steele’s and The Sporting News’ 2013 preseason All-MAC first team and made the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is awarded to the top defensive back in college football.
The hard-hitting safety knows that the Huskies, especially the young defense, need to work hard and improve this season if they are going to replicate their success from last season and prove their doubters wrong. “We’ve had to work for everything we’ve gotten,” Ward told the media at NIU’s media day in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, Aug. 1. “It wasn’t a surprise [that we weren’t ranked in the preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll] since we lost the Orange Bowl game, but all we’ve got to do is keep working, take it one day at a time and hopefully we do have a good season and they do have use ranked during the season.”