Listed among the most outstanding college athletes in modern history, Charlie, a two-sport athlete, was a stellar quarterback in football and an equally impressive point guard in basketball at Florida State University (FSU). During his senior year, he won over thirty awards, including the Heisman Trophy, set nineteen school and seven Atlantic Coast Conference records, subsequently leading the FSU Seminoles to their first-ever National Championship under legendary Coach Bobby Bowden. After graduating from FSU with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Charlie was drafted twice by Major League Baseball and was a first-round draft pick of the New York Knicks. He went on to play for the Knicks, helping the team consistently reach the playoffs six consecutive years from 1996 to 2001. He played eleven seasons as a leading point guard in the NBA in New York, San Antonio, and Houston, and served as an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets for two years. Throughout his professional athletic career, Charlie coached and mentored students, and is now using this experience as a full-time high school football coach in Pensacola, FL.
Charlie Ward is a man whose greatness and grace know no bounds. He and his wife Tonja have been married for 22 years and they have three children, Caleb, Hope and Joshua. The Wards underwrote and produced youth development sports camps throughout the country from 1996 - 2006, and continue to quietly donate funds to churches and schools. In 2015, they officially founded the Charlie Ward Family Foundation to leave a legacy of giving back by supporting youth development programs and organizations, and sharing his inspirational message of embracing the process that leads to success.
It takes a once-in-a-generation athlete to win a national championship as a quarterback for Florida State, reach the Sweet Sixteen three times as a point guard for his school, and then go on to become a starting guard for the New York Knicks in an NBA Finals. Yes, Charlie Ward’s athletic accomplishments truly know no peer. Combine an eleven-year NBA career with a College Football Hall of Fame career and the portrait of a humble, magnanimous leader takes shape.
Culled from hundreds of articles, clippings, books and original interviews with those who know Charlie best, this story begins with a foundation of college athletic excellence laid down by his father. From there, Jon Finkel traces Ward’s background from small-town Thomasville, Georgia to football-crazed Tallahassee to basketball Mecca Madison Square Garden in New York City. Ward’s remarkable journey includes staggering setbacks—from a near career-ending leg injury in high school, to academic obstacles prior to attending Florida State, to not being drafted by an NFL team after winning the Heisman Trophy. Through it all, Charlie’s calm demeanor, high character and unshakeable faith buoyed his belief that be it basketball or football, grades or career, he was going to succeed and set a strong example along the way.
As electrifying as Charlie Ward’s highlight reel, The Athlete is a towering sports biography, epic in scope and triumphant in its portrayal of one of the greatest modern athletes the world has ever seen.
“I can’t imagine if you’re a high school parent and your son is being coached by a man with the combination of athletic success, personal character and competitive spirit that Charlie has. I still don’t think people properly grasp what this guy has done.” – Jeff Van Gundy, ex-NBA Coach, NBA Analyst
“His leadership transcended offense, defense and special teams. It transcended the basketball court. The way he goes about his life with such integrity. The way he’s remained grounded after all he’s accomplished. I’ve learned as much from him as he ever did from me.”- Mark Richt, University of Miami Head Coach
“I lived with Charlie during the height of his college football popularity and I have so much respect for how he carried himself. He was the biggest star in college and he was so humble. His teammates respected him. His leadership was so unique. He had such a quiet strength and he treated people so well. You can achieve all of your dreams and goals and treat people with the utmost respect.!” – Warrick Dunn, National Champion, 3x NFL Pro Bowler