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Pat Ward is Having a Big Year On and Off the Field

by Jonah Rosenblum (@jonahlrosenblum)

Pat Ward is headed to the Big Apple.

Fear not, Northwestern fans. There isn’t a surprise date with Fordham on the schedule. Rather, the Wildcats’ senior tackle’s exemplary work in the classroom has earned him a seat at the National Football Foundation’s 55th Annual Awards Dinner on December 4. Perhaps more important, it has earned him an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. That amount will be bumped up to $25,000 if he is awarded the William V. Campbell Trophy, the winner of which will be announced at the dinner.

Ward is currently one of 15 finalists for the award, joining a few well-known stars in the University of Southern California’s Matt Barkley, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o and Baylor’s Nick Florence. Blue Devils quarterback Sean Renfree, who piloted Duke’s upset victory over North Carolina, also made the cut, as did two players who Northwestern has seen firsthand this season: Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead.  If the need for speed had fans gushing last week given the matchup of all-purpose yardage leaders Ameer Abdullah and Venric Mark, then scholarly types must have been thrilled to see Burkhead and Ward butt heads.

Ward is one of three offensive linemen to make the final fifteen, which ties it for the highest number of any position group. Three quarterbacks will also be headed to New York, where they will be joined by the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame induction class.

It has been a good year for Ward to say the least. He has already been named Northwestern’s Offensive Player of the Game twice this season. He has helped the Wildcats muster the third-best rushing attack in the league. He has also been part of a pass-blocking effort that has seen Northwestern quarterbacks get sacked just 12 times this season, including just twice in conference play. That’s the second-best total in the Big Ten.

Now, Ward is officially one of 15 recipients of the 2012 National Scholar-Athlete Award. Even among his fellow National Scholar-Athletes, Ward stands out. The group’s GPA averages out to a 3.67 – Ward’s currently stands at 3.94. And he’s a mechanical engineering major. Barkley’s a communications major. Burkhead’s a history major. Te’o’s a design major. Something tells me that Ward is the only engineering major on that list.