UH’s Ward has eyes for success

On the 11-level eye chart, a person who can read the eighth line has 20 /20 vision.

Hawaii receiver JoJo Ward has been able to read the 11th.

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The bottom line is the senior football player from Waco, Texas, has eagle-eye vision, sprinter’s speed and, following Monday’s announcement, the award as Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week.

“It’s a blessing,” Ward said. “Anybody in this offense—and this defense—could get player of the week. … Anybody can have a great day. It was just my night this past Saturday to have a great night.”

Ward caught 10 passes for 189 yards and four touchdowns to help the Rainbow Warriors top Oregon State 31-28 on Saturday night. After the game, quarterback Cole McDonald proclaimed the launching of the “Joe Era.”

Ward has shown patience and determination, bringing the same energy to each route. In the opener against Arizona, Ward was mostly a decoy, catching three passes on five targets. Against Oregon State, he was targeted 14 times.

“There were different schematics (against OSU ) that allowed another position to get some of those deep-threat opportunities, ” coach Nick Rolovich said. “He took advantage of it.”

Ward transferred from a junior college a few days before the start of the Warriors’ 2018 training camp. Despite not having spring-ball experience, he quickly grasped the run-and-shoot concepts, amassing 51 receptions, 865 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018.

“I thought in the offseason, he’s taken his knowledge of the offense, his comfort with the offense, to another level,” Rolovich said.

Ward has always trusted his grip, a skill developed through years of playing catch with his older brother. He said his speed was developed through training for track meets. He also has mastered the art of tip-toe catches. Against OSU, he made two catches with inches to spare before the end line and sideline.

“From repetition, ” he said of his knack for keeping a foot inbound, “from playing in practice, from seeing the same thing over and over. You’re trying to get feeling for where you are on the field.”

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On the scoring catch near the end line, Ward used the goal post as a marker. “That’s knowing where I was in the back of the end zone, ” Ward said. “I knew the ball was going to take me out of bounds, so I had to slow down. I can have my body out if my feet are in.”

The Warriors, who are 2-0 for the third year in a row, play their third consecutive Pac-12 opponent when they travel to Seattle to play Washington on Saturday.

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