- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

Robert Richard Ward Sr., an All-American college football player who became a successful coach and businessman, died April 29 at his son’s home in Laytonsville. He was 77.

Nicknamed “Hard Guy,” Mr. Ward was a member of the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame. He was the University of Maryland’s first All-American football player and was the unanimous first team All-America selection for 1950 and 1951. He was chosen for 20 separate All-America teams.

He was the only player in the history of college football to earn first team All-America honors as both an offensive and a defensive player.

Former Maryland football coach Jim Tatum, himself a member of the Hall of Fame, called Mr. Ward “the greatest football player I’ve seen, ounce for ounce, and the best I’ve ever coached.”

Former teammate Ed Modzelewski said of Mr. Ward: “I still believe he was the greatest player, pound for pound, that I have seen in either pro or college ball.”

Robert R. Ward Jr., 53, said his father ?was just passionate about everything he did. He didn’t do anything half-baked or halfway or with a half-effort. Everything was just with guns blazing.”

Born in 1927 in Elizabeth, N.J., Mr. Ward served as an Army paratrooper at Fort Benning, Ga., before entering the University of Maryland at College Park. He graduated in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in business.

He married the former Ellen Zalesak of Union, N.J., during his college days, and the couple had four children.

Mr. Ward was named the most valuable player in Maryland’s 1948 and 1950 Gator Bowl victories. He also was named the MVP for the school’s 10-0 Sugar Bowl win and national championship team in 1951.

His jersey, No. 28, was the first number ever to be retired by the school’s football team.

He was captain of every team he ever played for, including the College All-Star team that played against the NFL champion Los Angeles Rams.

Mr. Ward was drafted by the Baltimore Colts, but he chose a coaching career, which he pursued for 22 years.

He began as an assistant coach in 1952 at Maryland and followed that with assistant-coaching stints at Iowa State University, University of Oklahoma and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

He returned to Maryland as head coach in 1968.

In 1970, Mr. Ward began a four-year professional football coaching career in the Canadian Football League at Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. He won a Grey Cup Championship with two of those teams.

After leaving coaching, Mr. Ward purchased and operated Bob Ward’s Manhattan Liquors on the City Dock in Annapolis for more than 20 years.

Mr. Ward is survived by four children: James Ward of Columbia, S.C., Kathleen Ward of Thailand; Robert R. Ward Jr. of Laytonsville; Kelly Ward of Davidsonville, Md.; and 13 grandchildren.

Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery at 9:30 a.m. May 31. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. at Covenant Life Church, 7501 Muncaster Mill Road, Gaithersburg.

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