Da’Leon Ward walked through the concourse of Dallas’ Ellis Davis Field House, a million-dollar smile beaming underneath a brand-new Texas Tech hat.
“I’ve been a Raider since I first put on pads,” Ward said, referring to his youth team, the Redbird Raiders, and his high school program, the Dallas Skyline Raiders.
Ward was part of a three-player group from Skyline that signed with Texas Tech on Wednesday, including defensive end Clarence Henderson and defensive tackle Joe Wallace.
“It’s wonderful,” Ward said. “We talked about it – us three – and committed to it. We wanted to be Raiders again.”
With the camaraderie of the trio, plus connections with former Skyline assistant and current Tech outside receivers coach Emmett Jones, it’s no wonder that Texas Tech managed to pull off a package deal.
“It’s really amazing,” Henderson said. “Joe, he’s my brother. Ward, I’ve been knowing him since I was a little kid. This is an environment that I can grow in. I can go down there and feel comfortable. And if you’re comfortable, you can show the best of yourself. I don’t have to do the whole ‘meet new people’ thing,” Then Wallace chimed in, “And it will help me in school, actually, because Clarence knows that I need to stay focused. If he sees me slacking, I have Clarence or Ward telling me, ‘Do this, Joe. Stay on straight.’ When you have friends that you grew up with together, I feel like Texas Tech was just perfect.”
Ward, Henderson and Wallace – all three-star prospects – see themselves fitting into Texas Tech’s plans as soon as possible.
When asked if he thought his skills matched Tech’s offensive scheme, Ward – a quick 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back with good pass-receiving skills – was quick to answer.
“With those points they’re putting up?!? Oh, yeah,” he said. “I feel like it fits me perfect. Put me outside and let me catch a pass, or throw me a screen out of the backfield.”
Given Tech’s defensive struggles last season, Henderson and Wallace both said they expected to offer immediate help.
“My mindset is set on going down there and immediately making an impact,” Henderson said. “Me and Joe, there’s no redshirting for us. We’re going down there to work as hard as we can to get that starting position so we get out there and start playing.
“I know it’s a spot where I can fit in. Somewhere – SOMEWHERE – I can get on that field and play. Not used to being on the bench, and I’m not about to start.”
Wallace offered even broader hopes, wanting to change the attitude of Tech’s defense.
“I’m a pretty big guy who’s not going to be pushed around easily,” Wallace said. “And I have faith in my abilities; I think I can go up to Tech and really contribute and make an impact, hopefully help change the whole culture around.”