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October 5, 2004Life was great for LaMarque, Texas, safety Clarence Ward. He had scholarship offers from Florida State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA and LSU. He was already committed to LSU, was named as the Texas Football preseason defensive player of the year and his highlight film was jaw-dropping.
But that all changed on September 22 when Ward was dismissed from his team by La Marque coach and athletic director Bryan Erwin. Since then his world has been surrounded by battles with administrators, talk about transfers and questions about his future.
For the record, nobody, not even Ward will disclose why he was dismissed from the LaMarque squad. The only thing Ward says is the door is "open" for him to return, but he's decided he doesn't want to be part of the team for his "reasons" at this point.
"Well, right now I'd say there is no chance that I'm coming back," Ward, who is 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, said. "It's my choice, and I'm not coming back. It was a very hard decision, and the door is open for me to come back, but it's just something that I have to do.
"I don't need to come back."
"Talent without discipline means nothing," Erwin said. "The most talented teams don't win the championships. The best teams win the championships. Our goal is to build a good football team and a great football team."
With that decision, Ward has become the center of controversy on what his future might hold. The most pressing issue appeared to be whether or not he would remain at LaMarque or transfer to another school.
The Galveston County Daily News reported Ward attempted to enroll at Galveston Ball High School in late September, but that request was denied.
"I met the kid, and I talked to his mother last week, and I told them I thought it wouldn't be a good idea to do this," Ball coach Ron Holmes told the newspaper.
"He would have to get a release from the school, the parent would have to move to Galveston, and if the reason was because of athletics, he wouldn't be eligible to play anyway. I wasn't going to jeopardize my team or jeopardize my job to let this kid come play."
Rivals.com learned this week Ward attempted to contact schools in Florida and Mississippi about possibly transferring there, but Ward said Tuesday night that he's sticking at LaMarque and focused on just being a student at this point.
"I'm making better grades now that I have more free time," he said. "I'm still good to go academically. I have a 3.2 grade-point average now, and all this free time is not doing anything but helping me."
While Ward, who said he's scored an 840 on the SAT, looks at this point to be sticking at LaMarque there are questions about where his college future is, too. Ward committed very early in the recruiting process to LSU, but he said since his dismissal he's not hearing too much from the Tigers anymore.
"Well, it really seems that everybody is backing off me now," he said. "LSU has stopped calling. When I did talk to them last, they said they were going to keep the commitment, but they said that I might think about looking around some. I think I might end up at Florida State if they want me.
"They've offered the rest of the guys on the team (Russell Ball, who is committed to the Noles and Korey Mangum), and if they keep calling me then that might be a good place for me. But after that, I don't know what's going to happen. I might end up at a JC or something. I would go about anywhere that's willing to take a chance on me."
In the end, Ward believes things are going to work out all right. He's remaining positive and focused on academics mainly because of the support of his mother.
"My mom has really endured a lot by me going through this, and she's been there supporting me all the way," Ward said. "She's been going up to school and doing everything she can. I live just with my mom, and she's done everything to help me with this. I don't know where I would be without her support."