Florida State has been one of the top programs when it comes to developing talented players that have gone on to the NFL. The greatest Seminole quarterback, and arguably the greatest collegiate signal caller ever, bucked that trend and went a different route. Charlie Ward was a magnanimous choice for the Heisman in 1993 as he led FSU to their first National Championship. Some college football fans don't realize just how good Ward was because he decided to go pro in basketball instead of extending his football career in the NFL. Ward is the best offensive player the Seminoles have had, and his fantastic college career puts him at number 2 on NoleDigest.com's list of the Top 10 players in FSU history.
The most decorated player in the history of college football, Charlie Ward won literally every award he was eligible for as a senior quarterback on Florida State's 1993 championship team. The native of nearby Thomasville, Georgia became Florida State's first Heisman Trophy winner in 1993 after completing 69.5 percent of his passes for a then school-record 3,032 yards with 27 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also won the Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards and was named Walter Camp Player of the Year and Toyota Leader of the Year. He is only the second college football player ever to win the Sullivan Award.
Charlie's career at FSU didn't get off to a hot start. After spending 1988-89 at nearby Tallahassee Community College, he hit the books at FSU and joined the football team at the bottom of the depth chart. And that's where he stayed, even while becoming the basketball team's starting point guard. But he still had his dreams of Saturdays in the fall. Ward wanted to be FSU's quarterback, and Bobby Bowden kept his word that he'd have Charlie as his starting signal caller. In 1991-92 Ward led the basketball team to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16, and that September, Bowden made the 6'2", 190- pound athletic prodigy his starting quarterback. Florida State tweaked its pro-style offense around its leader's hardcourt-tested mobility. The "Fast Break," as it was known, employed a no-huddle shotgun that let Ward either use his receivers or streak from the pocket if he saw a hole.
Charlie was the first Seminole player to win the Heisman award and that alone is enough to make him an All-time great. Combine that with what he did during his Heisman run, Ward made himself a legend. From the first moment of the '93 season, the spotlight focused on Ward, who was considered to be the nation's premier quarterback and the prime candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Ward responded not only with many a marvelous performance at passing and running, but also with the kind of inspired leadership which is present in only the finest of quarterbacks. Analysts noted that the 6-foot 2 inch, 190-pound Ward did much better when lined up in the "Shotgun" formation, wherein he stood some seven yards behind center. This enabled him to get a better view of the defense and to use his phenomenal escape skills to avoid the oncoming defensive linemen. Indeed, he averaged six yards every time he ran with the ball. But it was as a passer that Ward ruined a defense, with an almost unbelievable- near 70% completion average, and the ability to throw the long pass as well as the short one.
Ward earned consensus All-America honors during his great senior season. Charlie cemented his spot as the leading Heisman candidate when he had his best game against the Noles archrival Gators. He has 446 passing yards and 4 touchdown passes in a 33-21 win at Florida. That game featured one of the best plays in FSU history as Ward scrambled out of the pocket to find freshman running back Warrick Dunn streaking down field. His four TD passes against the Gators ended their 23-game home winning streak, leaving No. 2 Florida State 11-1 with an Orange Bowl date against No. 1 Nebraska. As the first consensus All America quarterback ever at FSU Ward posted a 22-2 record in his two seasons as a starter.
Those numbers precluded any Heisman voting drama. Ward beat Tennessee's Heath Shuler by 1,622 points, the second-biggest margin ever, and brought the trophy home to Thomasville's public library, where it still rests. With the Seminoles' Orange Bowl win, Ward became the first Heisman and national championship winner since Tony Dorsett in 1976. Ward was a talented athlete who was a four-year starter at point guard on the Seminole basketball team. Though Charlie didn't play baseball at FSU the Milwaukee Brewers drafted him as a pitcher in the 1993 free agent draft and by the Yankees in 1994. Ward was inducted into FSU's Hall of Fame in 1999 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Stay tuned to NoleDigest as we finish off our top 10 list as we feature the top player to ever don the Garnet and Gold.