For the last three years, Greg Ward Jr. has worked tirelessly to transition from college quarterback to professional wide receiver.
On Thursday night, he was one more injury away from turning back the clock.
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After Cody Kessler went down with a concussion in the first quarter of the Eagles' 24-10 preseason win in Jacksonville, the Eagles were left with just Clayton Thorson for the rest of the game because Carson Wentz wasn't playing. Normally, a team has contingency plans during the regular season, but the Eagles had to figure out an emergency plan on the fly Thursday night.
What they came up with was simple.
"We had Greg Ward on standby," Doug Pederson said. "He was coached up and ready to go."
Ward, 24, hasn't been a quarterback since 2016, his senior season at the University of Houston, where he was a dual-threat QB before attempting to make it in the NFL as a receiver. And he has served as scout team QB at times for the Eagles over the last couple of years. The Eagles also have former Ohio State QB Braxton Miller on their 90-man roster.
Despite his time away from the position, Ward was pretty confident he would have been able to perform well under center on Thursday night had they needed him and even felt confident he'd be able to run the Eagles' offense.
So what would have happened if he got in there at QB?
"We would have won," he said.
While Ward didn't get to play quarterback on Thursday night, he did get to throw a pass on a trick play in the second half. His pass attempt to Carlton Agudosi in tight coverage fell incomplete. It wasn't a very good toss so maybe his future as a pro quarterback doesn't look great.
But his future as a pro receiver seems to look more promising by the day.
On Thursday night, Ward caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Thorson. He went up to get the ball and then navigated his way into the end zone - with the aid of nice block from Josh Perkins - for his first-ever professional touchdown. It was a beauty.
Clayton Thorson places the pass where it needs to be and Greg Ward handles the rest for a 38-yard score.#PHIvsJAX | #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/XQfhDgy4xd— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) August 15, 2019
Ward has had a really good training camp and is fighting to make the Eagles' 53-man roster. He has a shot. Ward came to Philly in 2017 and has been in the last three training camps and just keeps getting better. In between all that, he played in the short-lived AAF, before coming back to the Eagles in April.
In his third year trying to make an NFL roster, Ward has a much better understanding of the process and thinks he knows what it takes. He admitted he "didn't know much" three years ago as a rookie.
"I think the main thing is you just have to stay consistent, never let the ups and downs get to you," Ward said. "You just have to stay focused on your opportunities."
Ward's opportunity on Thursday night came when he caught that touchdown pass. And even though he's come a long way from his days as a quarterback, he would have relished that opportunity too.
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