I got the chance to chat with T.J. Ward about his foundation shortly after he toured the Furniture Row Racing Team shop in Denver on Thursday. Ward was learning more about NASCAR in preparation for a trip the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Race next week in Fontana, CA next week.
Ward developed a greater appreciation for NASCAR drivers during the tour, but don't worry Broncos Country, he's not about to give up his day job. While Ward said his favorite part of the tour was getting into a race car, he also mentioned that he is somewhat claustrophobic and that it was too tight in that car for his liking.
After his tour, Ward spoke to the media, coincidentally right after news had broken about Rahim Moore signing with the Houston Texans.
"He’s a good friend of mine." Ward said when asked for his reaction to Moore's departure. "He’s a good player. I had the pleasure of playing beside him last year. I’m proud of what he’s doing, and I hope he does great things for the Texans."
T.J. Ward has been in the NFL for five seasons. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft and played in Ohio until the Denver Broncos signed Ward last March. It didn't take Ward much time to start getting active in the Denver community. Ward was one of about 20 Broncos players who attended the Denver Draft Party, a charity bowling event that raises money for the Active Force Foundation, last May.
Ward is no stranger to community and charity events having created the T.J. Ward Foundation while he was playing for the Browns. According to Ward's personal website, TJWard43.com, the foundation "is committed to enhancing the lives of young people by supporting programs that provide the tools necessary to empower young men and women in underprivileged communities across the country."
Ward pointed to his own family when I asked him about his inspiration to start his own foundation.
"I was raised that it’s important to give back to less fortunate than you, and that starts in our family, my parents," Ward said. "They pretty much instilled that in me and my siblings since we were young. Now that I’m in a position where I can do, why not? What else could I be doing?"
The T.J. Ward Foundation is active in the Bay Area, where Ward grew up, and he plans to keep it active in the Denver community as well. Ward said that essentially the foundation "goes where he goes" and that he is "always going to be active in the community."
Recently Ward took several local kids to a special screening of the new animated film Home at the Boulder International Film Festival. Previously the T.J. Ward Foundation has raised money through bowling events, and this summer the T.J. Ward Foundation is teaming up with Strikes for Kids to host a Charity Golf Tournament in Denver.
Ward's favorite moment with his foundation happened last winter. In the "Christmas ReWards Event" Ward, fellow Bronco Kayvon Webster, and Nuggets players Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson took 31 middle schoolers on a Target shopping spree.
"I had a lot of fun taking the kids shopping at Target," Ward said. "Just seeing the smiles on their faces and how happy their family was. It was pretty special."
Asked if he encouraged his teammates to join him on his community endeavors Ward replied, "All you have to do is ask them if they want to come out and help. And most of the time they’re supportive. So it’s pretty easy to get them out."
Ward said that so far this offseason he has stayed in contact with handful of teammates he's close with and talked with the new coaching staff last week. He joked that he wouldn't return to football any sooner than he had to, and said he was definitely enjoying his time off.
When I asked him if there were any safeties or fellow Oregon Ducks he thought the Broncos should keep their eye on for the draft Ward's reply was perfect considering he was in a NASCAR facility.
"You know what, that’s not my lane," Ward said laughing." I’m going to stick in my lane."
Before he left Ward did mention that his younger brother, Terron Ward, was eligible for the draft this year. The younger Ward is a running back who went to Oregon State.
Hopefully Ward and his fellow Broncos will keep up the good work they are doing in the community this offseason and encourage their teammates to do the same.