At the risk of sounding cliché, the Draft is a time for beginnings in football. Players coming out of college are starting their new careers, many teams are reworking their rosters, some teams are even doing a little rebranding on their uniforms.
Amid the buzz of Draft projections, trade-up rumors, and new player rankings, this has also been a season of endings for some players. Earlier today strong safety T.J. Ward officially announced his retirement from the NFL.
T.J. Ward announces his retirement. Member of famed “No Fly Zone.” Last played in 2017 for Tampa Bay. Played with a reckless abandon that in many ways exemplified the personality of that great Broncos 2015 Super Bowl 50 defense. #9sports https://t.co/KykmIHhalE— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) April 21, 2021
In a heartfelt statement released this morning, Ward considered himself “honored and blessed to have completed 8 NFL years,” and expressed gratitude to God, his family, his high school foundation, his fans, and his teams.
Originally drafted to the Cleveland Browns in 2010, Ward most recently played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was also a member of the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad in 2020; but his most memorable season was spent as a Denver Bronco.
Ward signed with the Broncos in 2014 and appeared in a second consecutive Pro Bowl later that same year, having recorded two interceptions with 55 return yards, 74 tackles, two sacks, and five passes defended.
In the following season, Ward completed 61 tackles, two sacks, six passes defended, and two forced fumbles. He would go on to make history as part of Denver’s “No Fly Zone” in Super Bowl 50.
Ward celebrated the Super Bowl victory’s fifth anniversary earlier this year.
The best secondary of all time ... what you think?— T.J. Ward (@BossWard43) January 24, 2021
Celebrated our NO FLY Zone 5-year Super Bowl anniversary on an @calltothebooth special with my guys @aqibtalib21 @bamabred24 @roby @chrisharrisjr @hdsanford. Second to none!! #noflyzone often imitated but never duplicated! pic.twitter.com/Is7l5auDPy
In addition to his Super Bowl ring and two Pro Bowl appearances, Ward’s professional career boasts a second-team All-Pro distinction and a PFWA NFL All-Rookie Team title.
He’s proud of the approach he took to his career, saying, “Regardless of the ups and downs, I stayed the course. Football is in my blood. I would play as long as I was able. In the end, I wasn’t allowed to play anymore.”
But despite his love for football and the NFL, I don’t think Ward has always felt as warm about Denver. When they released him in 2017, he stated they handled it in a “completely unprofessional” manner.
But fences have been mended or at least enough time has passed for some healing of the hurt surrounding the decision, and Ward had high praise for the Broncos.
“Thank you to the Denver Broncos for an amazing three years,” he said, “It was such a pleasure playing for such an amazing organization. Winning the Lombardi Trophy was the highlight of my career. No Fly!”
Super Bowl 50 was the highlight of a lot of careers at Dove Valley, and Ward’s name will forever be cemented in Denver’s history books.
Best of luck to your next endeavor, #43!
.@BossWard43 came to the #Broncos in @johnelway's massive free agent haul of 2014 for the sole purpose of getting what they couldn't in #SB48.— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) April 21, 2021
They didn't get that 'ship til #SB50, but that was the most memorable season ever.
And THE greatest secondary.#NoFlyZone forever https://t.co/J8c1SVpLMM