Engineering the Offense

Northwestern offensive line coach Adam Cushing gets to the film room to set up the equipment at around 6:30 or 6:40 a.m. on most days. He’s almost never the first person there.

That distinction goes to Patrick Ward, the 6-foot-7, 310-pound left tackle who spends his days in the trenches and his nights in the laboratories. Even by Northwestern standards, Ward, a senior mechanical engineering major, knows how to keep himself busy.

There are people who are as talented as Ward, Cushing said, but few as motivated.

“What you get with Patrick is a person of the highest character possible,” Cushing said. “Very strong in his faith, unbelievably intelligent, but he also has a drive to be great at everything he does. That’s truly what sets him apart.”

Ward was one of three newcomers to play for the Wildcats as a true freshman in 2009. He’s gone on to be a three-year starter at tackle and likely two-time Academic All-American.

On the gridiron and in the classroom, Ward has a tendency to be ahead of the curve, and that’s how he balances schoolwork and football. Procrastination is anathema to the Homer Glen, Ill., native. In that respect, Ward’s two passions aren’t all that different.

 “There are a lot of parallels that you can draw between football and engineering,” Ward said. “Both require discipline, time management, effort, and you have to respect both of them. If you don’t put in what you need to, both could come back and hurt you.”

As a junior, Ward finished the engineering capstone project that students generally complete as seniors. Ward and his group worked on a plastic bottle crusher that more effectively reduces waste.

“The goal of the course was to use cumulative engineering knowledge to do what you would be doing out in the workforce,” Ward said. “I had a lot of fun with that.”

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