Ward Finds Comfort With UCLA

It's rare that a Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei prospect commits to UCLA, but offensive lineman Chris Ward did just that and he talks about why he chose the Bruins...

Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei offensive lineman Chris Ward did something that very few Monarchs before him have done: he committed to UCLA.

"I did it before the game on Saturday, to Coach (Rick) Neuheisel and Coach (Bob) Palcic," said Ward. "They were pretty excited to get the commitment. After the game, Coach Neuheisel had to leave to go watch his son's game so I talked more with Coach Palcic. He said they had a rough game, but he was happy because he was looking forward to getting to coach me."

Cal and UCLA were the first two schools to offer Ward, doing so in September of 2008 as he started his junior year, and as more schools offered, Ward seemed to focus on the two in-state programs.

"I was considering everyone else, but those two were the ones who stood out the most to me," said Ward.

In the end, UCLA stood out more, giving the Bruins their first commitment from a Mater Dei prospect in recent memory.

"I know Coach (Bruce) Rollinson was supporting me fully," said Ward. "I can't think of the last guy from Mater Dei to go to UCLA, but it wasn't an issue for me. I just felt the most comfortable with UCLA. The area, the coaches, it was all a good fit for me."

UCLA has had some walk-on's from Mater Dei, including nickel back Andrew Abbott, who Ward played with as a sophomore.

"I played with Andrew and I saw him after the game but he was pretty bummed after they lost and I didn't want to bug him. So I talked to him (Sunday) morning for a while and he's excited for me to be coming there and I'm excited too," said Ward.

Ward said earlier this month he was planning to take a visit to Cal and then UCLA and then make his decision. But a tweaked knee days before he was to visit Cal saw that trip get canceled.

As the week went on, Ward was more and more feeling the Bruins.

"Nothing new really came up that made me pick UCLA, I was just kind of weighing the pros and cons the last couple of weeks," said Ward. "I was feeling kind of comfortable with UCLA before I was going to visit Cal, so the knee wouldn't have changed my mind if I had visited."

Ward said he's excited for his opportunity in Westwood.

"Playing early is always something I wanted to do and they've shown they'll play guys early on the line. The last time I talked to them, they wanted me as a tackle. But I'll play whatever they need me at. I'm willing to play guard if they want me to," said Ward.

Ward said Neuheisel and Palcic were key in his recruitment, and the relationship with those two made a big difference.

He's also excited about his future teammates at UCLA>

"I'm going to take my visit in January with the other recruits," said Ward. "I don't know many but I'm planning to get to know a lot of them. On Saturday, I talked a little with Malcolm Jones. He's pretty cool and we talked with some other guys thinking of going there on Saturday and we're going to be working on getting guys to come in there. I'm so excited about the future that lies ahead at UCLA."

Ward's good friend, Matt Barkley, is starting across town, and while the Trojans didn't offer Ward, they were recruiting him.

"Matt was always talking highly of USC," said Ward. "I haven't talked to him since I committed, but I'm sure that will be a nice little talk."

Ward said his family was thrilled with his options, but the opportunity to see him closer was a win-win.

"They'd have supported me either way, so that wasn't a big issue," said Ward. "But I know they're happy because they'll be able to come to more of my games."

Ward said with recruiting over, he can focus on leading the Monarchs to another Trinity League title.

"Now I can just focus on my high school team and getting my job done there and not worry about coach's calling me all the time," said Ward. "We play Orange Lutheran this week and we've lost to them four years in a row, but we're looking to change that this year. My knee is fine and fully ready to go."

Ward, the #1-ranked offensive lineman in the state of California in 2010, is fully qualified with a 3.65 GPA and a 1600 on the SAT.

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