November 11, 2010 6:14:00 AM
Perrance Ward still has work to do, but the opportunity to play Division I college football has been offered and accepted.
The former West Point High School standout and East Mississippi Community College cornerback/safety gave a verbal commitment Tuesday to play football at the University of Memphis.
Ward still has to complete academic requirements, so he isn''t sure if he will enroll at Memphis in January or in the spring, but he is excited his college football career will continue.
"It feels good," Ward said. "I was a non-qualifier out of high school and it feels good to know I will be able to move on to the next level and have a chance."
Ward, a 6-foot, 210-pounder, was fifth on the team with 62 tackles (44 solo) this season. He had one tackle for loss, two sacks, and five interceptions, which tied for the lead in the MACJC and tied for sixth in the nation.
The Lions (5-5) saw their season end Saturday in a 48-21 loss to No. 10 Copiah-Lincoln in the semifinals of the MACJC playoffs. Even though EMCC won''t get a chance to defend its state title, the first in school history, Ward showed this season he was more than capable of playing at a high level. He overcame an injury to his right wrist that forced him to bypass his initial opportunity to go to EMCC. Academic problems prevented him from playing football in 2009, but he returned to the field with a vengeance this season.
EMCC football coach Buddy Stephens said Memphis gives Ward a chance to play immediately. He feels it is a great fit for Ward and that the school has an excellent academic plan for him to succeed.
"Perrance has worked extremely hard to get where he is, and I am so excited for him and elated for his family," Stephens said. "His grandmother and his mother had a lot of nights praying to see he would get this opportunity. I am very excited for him, and I know he will immediately make them a lot better in the secondary and make them a lot faster team."
Ward said his mother, Aretha Cox, went to school at the University of Memphis and that he used to live in the city, so he is very familiar with both. He said he visited the school the weekend of Oct. 30 for the football team''s game against the University of Houston and liked the environment and the fields of study offered (he could study forensic science or architecture) at the school.
"It was a great feeling," Ward said. "I wanted to be a part of the program right then and there.
"I think I will be able to come in and play right away. We''ll see how it goes when I get there."
Ward said he always has wanted to play football in college. He said he feels proud that he has come this far and that he knows he still has plenty of work left to do in the classroom to keep his dream alive. He said that will serve as motivation to keep him focused and hungry.
"It has been a long road and I think it has served me a purpose," Ward said. "I have matured a lot since I got (to EMCC), and I have received a good education and I will graduate with an associate''s degree. It feels good to be moving on. I am sure ready to go and ready to play, so I will see what happens from there. It is a big move coming from high school to JUCO, but now I am finally where I want to be."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.