Robert "Buddy" Ward

In sports, sometimes two players become forever linked to each other, for instance, Davis and Blanchard in football and Mantle and Maris in baseball. Former German Township High School football standouts Robert "Buddy" Ward and James "Happy" Ford will always be linked by their exploits together on the gridiron.

Chuck Muncie  

Ward, now 82 years old was an outstanding halfback for the Uhlans from 1950 to 1952 and Ford was a fullback.

Ward graduated from German in 1953. He excelled in football, basketball, baseball and track and field.

"I think I got 13 or 14 varsity letters,î Ward explained. "Our coaching staff encouraged all sports, which they never do today."

The Uhlans football squad under the guidance of Head Coach Lou Rozzi was a power during Wardís time. German captured the Fayette County Class A championship in 1950 and went 6-4 in 1951. Ward and his running mate Ford ran wild in 1952 tallying 28 touchdowns between them and forging a ticket to the WPIAL Class A championship game against Midland.

"German was a pretty solid football team for several years," Ward recalled. "We had some good solid teams during that period."

The Uhlans lost the WPIAL Championship game to Midland in a game played at Dormont, 14-6. Mike Karasí 79-yard third quarter punt return snapped a 6-6 deadlock and propelled Midland to victory. The game wasnít without controversy as Ward gathered in a Midland punt on his own 28, reversed field twice and bolted 62 yards to the end zone. The play was nullified by a clipping penalty.

"The so-called clip was nowhere near the play at all," Ward bitterly recalled. "It was on the other side of the field. We didnít think it was the right call."

Ward and Ford garnered All-County honors in 1951 and were unanimous choices to the 1952 squad as Ward paced the county in scoring with 104 points and Ford racked up 98 points.

"They called us "Touchdown Twins," Ward stated. "We meshed on and off the field and Ford and I played all the sports together and Ford was an excellent athlete and there was no jealousy or anything between us at all. It was kind of like the movie "Remember the Titans" with Denzel Washington and the black and white team that came together. We were good buddies."

Ward praised the coaching that he received at German.

"Lou Rozzi was a tough coach," Ward offered. "He made us work and he never took it easy on us. He demanded self-discipline and he promoted our scholastics as well as our athletics. He was loyal to his players and yet he demanded a lot out of us. We had a group of great coaches - Adam Donnelly coached there and he coached basketball and was an assistant football coach and Ray Riffenburg and Buck Johnson."

When he graduated in 1953, Ward decided to accept a football scholarship to Notre Dame.

"I was contacted my junior year," Ward recalled. "A guy by the name of Henry Oppermann from Connellsville took me to South Bend for a visit and he kind of promoted me. I considered Army for a while. Notre Dame sent one of their assistant coaches to talk to me in Lamberton and mom and dad were so impressed."

He got off to a slow start with the Irish.

"I broke an ankle in spring practice as a freshman and they red shirted me," Ward said. "I lettered three years and I started my junior year the last five ballgames and then got hurt again in spring practice - a very bad sprained ankle my senior year. I was actually touted to be the starting halfback my senior year and after that injury never seemed to break back in."

The great Frank Leahy recruited Ward and then his sophomore year, Leahy had medical problems and left coaching and Terry Brennan took over.

Ward was only 160 pounds when he played for the Fighting Irish and recalled an amusing moment with the gruff old equipment manager when he first went to practice.

"I went to draw my equipment and practice uniform," Ward laughed. "He took a look at me and he said, ëAre you sure youíre not supposed to be back here helping me pass this out?í I made him eat those words."

In 1955 the Irish finished with a 8-2 record and then fell to 2-8 in 1956 and in Wardís senior year the Irish posted a 7-3 mark.

One of Wardís most cherished moments is an 84-yard fourth quarter punt return he had against Pitt at Pitt Stadium in a 26-13 loss to the Panthers in 1956.

"I ran a punt back," Ward explained. "We lost the game, but that was a big thrill being back home and doing it in front a lot of the home folks."

In 1957 Ward was part of one of the biggest upsets in the history of college football as the Irish snapped Oklahomaís NCAA record 47-game winning streak with a 7-0 victory at Norman, OK.

"That was the highlight of the season," Ward said. "We played great defense and Dick Lynch scored the winning touchdown."

Ward played with Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner Paul Hornung, who went on to a great career with the Green Bay Packers.

"He was a good all-around player and a tough hard-nosed kid and he did everything - he kicked, he passed, he ran, he did it all," Ward said of Hornung.

Ward enjoyed his time at Notre Dame so much that he settled down in Indiana.

"Iíve never regretted going to Notre Dame at all," Ward stated. "Itís opened a lot of doors and thereís tremendous respect for Notre Dame - not only athletically but also academically. I got a super education."

When Ward graduated from Notre Dame in 1958 he decided to become a coach and an educator.

"I went right into teaching," Ward said. "I had a couple opportunities to try out for pro football, but declined them. Iím still here in Granger IN - I started at the Mary Frank School and then I went to Penn High School, which is a major power here in northwest Indiana. I taught history and geography and sociology and psychology at the high school level. I was at Mary Frank seven years and I taught five years at Penn High School and then I left and went into insurance. I was assistant coach at Penn High School for one year under Ron Meyer, and then I took over as head coach when he left and now Iím retired."

When Ward was injured and red shirted his first year at Notre Dame he returned home and met his wife who is the former Gloria Jean Fecek from North Union. They have been married 60 years and have three children.

Ward and his wife still have relatives in Fayette County and a daughter who resides in Pittsburgh.

"We get back quite frequently," Ward stated.


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