Grant Traylor: Ward humbly accepts different role during Herd's Saturday scrimmage
The first sign of leadership is putting your own personal interests aside for the good of the team.
In that case, Marshall University football player Martin Ward is the ultimate teammate.
During Saturday's scrimmage, Ward put aside his personal battle to ascend up the running back depth chart to help the first-team defense by running with the scout team offense.
"You have to be humble. I don't like it necessarily, but at the end of the day, I want to help out the defense and I have to know my role," Ward said. "The fact that I still get reps with the ones is soothing. I'm still one of the guys that's in the mix, but it's definitely a humbling experience right now."
A former starter for the Thundering Herd, Ward is playing behind Travon Van and Tron Martinez.
That doesn't mean he has stopped giving the same effort that earned him the starting nod previously. Ward knows he is in the mix and he is going to do everything in his power to not only ascend up the depth chart, but make his teammates better in the process.
He also put a positive spin on the situation, saying it made him a better running back.
"When you come up against the ones, it helps your vision because you have to look quicker, read quicker and hit the hole faster," Ward said.
Saturday's scrimmage was geared heavily toward what would be seen next week in the season opener against No. 24 West Virginia.
But instead of the first-team defense going against scout-team caliber athletes, they were going up against the hungry Ward.
Rippon said Ward's presence had a resounding effect .
"The competitive nature of the kids on defense, it jumps right up now that they are getting challenged -- not only on the field, but in the locker room," Rippon said. "(Ward's) bringing his stuff and there's a lot of give and take, but it amps that part of practice up.
"And Martin is an experienced kid, a great kid, a team kid. He's really shown that. We've got Vinny (defensive end Vinny Curry) who keeps talking and there's a lot of jibber-jabber and everything else, and you kind of appreciate because it keeps that part of practice going when you are with scouts."
DIFFICULT SIMULATION: Head coach Doc Holliday said situational scrimmages such as Saturday's are among the most difficult for a coach and a team. For the first time on field, the Herd had a scout-team offense and defense simulating what will be seen next week against the Mountaineers.
"That scrimmage is one of the tougher scrimmages because it's all scout related. It's an actual mock game versus our opponent, which is West Virginia," Holliday said. "It's hard at times because you've got cards and are running their plays and doing some things, but I thought it was pretty smooth."
IRENE ON PLAYERS' MINDS: Part of what makes Vinny Curry one of the best players in the country, as voted by various outlets nationally, is the raw emotion that goes with his skill.
On Saturday, Curry's emotion post-practice was evident, but it was geared toward something other than football.
Curry, a native of Neptune, N.J., was worried about the effects of Hurricane Irene on people at home.
"There's definitely concerns. I'm getting ready to send a text message right now," Curry said. "I tried to call earlier and no one picked up. I called last night, and they said the rain hadn't started. It was supposed to hit today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday)...
"The only thing I can do is just pray and keep calm and make sure everybody's all right."
Fellow defensive lineman Brandon Bullock is also from New Jersey, having lived in Egg Harbour before recently moving to Camden, which is more inland.
Holliday said he gained experience in dealing with situations with nature -- especially hurricanes -- while coaching at the University of Florida.
"When I was at Florida, every time one of those came close, you had one-third of your team or two-thirds of your team was concerned about it," Holliday said. "We don't have near those issues, but you know what? If people have relatives in the area (affected), I'm sure it's an issue and we'll help them any way we can."
Grant Traylor is a sports reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.