Thad Ward, who has coached at the high school and collegiate level in Florida, spent six years coaching in Illinois and became familiar with the Mid-American Conference at Western Michigan in 2012, will join the Northern Illinois coaching staff after the Discover Orange Bowl.
Ward, who played wide receiver at the University of Central Florida from 1998-2001, will coach the Huskie wide outs after working with the same position at WMU last season.
“We are really excited to have Thad; his wife, Jocelyn; and their three children join our Huskie family,” NIU head coach Rod Carey said. “Thad is an excellent teacher of football, an excellent coach and an excellent family man. I know he’s going to fit in with everything NIU stands for.”
Ward said after talking to Carey, the decision to join the Northern Illinois program was easy.
“First and foremost, I am extremely fired up about having the opportunity to coach at a program like NIU,” Ward said.
“After sitting down and talking to Rod [Carey], it only took two or three minutes to determine this would be a great fit for me and my family. I knew this was where I wanted to be. He has a plan, he has a vision to take the program to the next level. I got a chance to see the team practice and to meet with the staff and it was very comfortable. Spending six years in Illinois recruiting, I understand what that is about. NIU is a great place and my family and I can’t wait to get integrated into the community.”
At WMU in 2012, Ward developed Broncos freshman Jaime Wilson into the team’s leading receiver en route to MAC Freshman of the Year honors. Wilson caught 67 passes for 792 yards and six touchdowns while averaging nearly 80 receiving yards per game. Western Michigan receivers were a key to the Broncos’ rank as the No. 3 passing offense in the MAC.
Ward went to Western Michigan after one season at Gardner-Webb where he served as passing game coordinator in addition to coaching wide receivers. Prior to that, he spent six seasons as running backs coach at Western Illinois University. The Leathernecks had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his six seasons, and the 2010 WIU offense ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in points per game and was third in yards per game.
In May 2009, Ward participated in the NCAA Football Coaches Academy, and the NFL’s Minority Internship Program, where he worked with the Baltimore Ravens from May to August of 2009.
At Western Illinois, Ward helped tutor Herb Donaldson, who led Division I in rushing and scoring in 2008 en route to becoming the school’s, and conference’s, all-time leader and the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year. The Leathernecks ranked sixth nationally in rushing offense in 2008, after posting a No. 11 finish and a 255.6 average in 2007. Donaldson twice gained over 300 yards in a game and averaged 149 rushing yards per game, fifth in the country.
Ward began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Florida A&M University in 2002, then spent the 2003 and 2004 seasons in the high school ranks at Tallahassee (Fla.) Rickards High School, where he coaching wide receivers and defensive backs in 2003 and served for a time as interim head coach in 2004.
As a player, Ward spent three seasons at UCF, where he caught 43 passes for 446 yards as a senior while averaging 40.5 receiving yards per game. He joined the Knights’ program after playing one year at Coffeyville Community College, where he was an All-Jayhawk Conference selection in 1998 as a redshirt freshman.
The native of Tallahassee, Fla., was an all-state receiver at Godby High School as a senior. He and his wife, Jocelyn, have two daughters, Jayda and Journie, and a son, Thaddaeus Jr.
Ward is the first addition to Carey’s Huskie coaching staff for 2013.