INDIANAPOLIS — Denzel Ward stepped to the podium at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday and was immediately peppered with questions about why he sat out of his final college game (the Cotton Bowl against USC).
He handled each with ease, detailing the internal conflict with which he dealt and the support he received from his coaches. The Ohio State cornerback, whose nickname is “Flash”, also made one fact very clear: He won’t be sitting out of the marquee event here at the combine on Monday.
“People already kind of know that I’m kind of fast,” Ward said. “They just don’t know how fast. That’s what I plan to show (on Monday).”
It’s become standard for combine prospects to respond to requests for specific event predictions with ambiguous answers. Ward is believed to be one of the fastest players at the combine, but he followed suit when asked for his his 40-yard dash predictions.
“Fast. Very fast,” Ward said. “No number. We’ll see tomorrow.”
Ward’s combine workout is highly anticipated. He’s the consensus top CB in the draft.
His strengths, as he sees it, are his speed, footwork at the line of scrimmage and ability to be able to mirror receivers. As such, he’s likely met with most, if not all, the NFL teams at the combine. He revealed that he had a formal interview with the Green Bay Packers, who hold the draft’s 14th overall pick and have a need at CB, although Ward is currently projected by NFL.com analysts to be picked before the Packers are on the clock.
“It’s been exciting. I’ve been enjoying meeting with the teams and just going through this whole preparation,” Ward said. “It’s been a long dream of mine that I’m enjoying that I’m actually here.”
Ward attributes his mix of humility and confidence to preparation, his time at a top college football program in Ohio State and the way his family raised him, “to be a confident man.” Included in that group is his late father Paul. Ward is honoring him at the combine with a fundraiser tied to his vertical leap.
“I just know my dad’s going to be looking down smiling,” Ward said. “I know he wished he could’ve been here.”
He’s expected to become the latest in a line of Ohio State defensive backs to be selected in the first round, and keeps in contact with all of them via a group chat. Nearly all of them have become instant contributors in the NFL, something Ward aims to take the next step toward with his combine performance. It began on Sunday, when the 5-foot-10, 184-pound Ward posted 16 reps on the bench press.
It continues when Ward takes the field Monday, no longer resigned to the Cotton Bowl sideline and ready to again battle for prospect supremacy.
“I just want them to see my passion for the game and see that I just love to go out there and compete,” Ward said.
— Nick Shook