Justin Ward from Rockingham High School in Wentworth, NC is one of North Carolina's top offensive line prospects for the class of 2008. After earning an early scholarship offer from NC State, that all changed when Chuck Amato was fired as the Pack's head coach and replaced by Tom O'Brien. Ward recently told Pack Pride that he has no hard feelings about the scholarship.
"You know, I really can't blame them," said Ward. "Before they invest thousands of dollars in a player, they want to make sure they evaluate you. So I really didn't have any hard feelings."
At 6-5, 280 pounds, Ward helped lead Rockingham to their first playoff game in 17 years. A two year starter at offensive tackle, the rising senior finished off his junior year with all-conference and all-area honors. Most of the schools recruiting him like him as an offensive tackle or guard and that list is quite lengthy.
"Right now I'm hearing from East Carolina, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, South Carolina, Clemson, Penn State, Notre Dame, Marshall and Alabama," said Ward. "Duke has told me they like me as a defensive tackle. Marshall has really come on strong as of late and coach Cignetti at Alabama has been in touch."
Last week, Ward was able to make an unofficial visit to NC State. While many recruiting analysts have felt Ward to be a UNC lean, the Wolfpack coaches certainly didn't do anything to hurt their chances should they decide to offer.
"I was able to make a visit there for one of their practices," said Ward. "I really like the coaches and they want me to come to camp so they can see what I have to offer.
"With the coaching staff at State, every one of them are great people individually. I feel like they're close to being like family. When we went to practice, coach Horton, he called me ‘Big J' and that was great. I got to go to a couple of games last year. We went to the ECU game and, ironically, went to the Boston College game and they just have a great atmosphere there."
As Ward continues to wait for his first scholarship offer, he says that he's keeping all of his options open and has eliminated no one. The camp circuit will be important in his quest to land an offer and he plans to attend camps at NC State, Penn State, Duke and South Carolina.
Wards hopes to major in either Business Management, Sports Management or Pre-law.