BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is an opinion piece from FOX6 Sports Anchor Rick Karle:
Somehow it doesn't seem fair. How can the local kid, the young man with the infectious smile, a fast-riser in the world of college basketball coaching,
at the age of 36? Why Torrey Ward, a reporter's favorite and the father of two? How can Janice Ward deal with losing her only child? How can the UAB nation deal with losing one of their own?
They say that when tragedy strikes, all you can do is to pray for the family but maybe we can do more. Maybe we can remember Torrey via this great creation called social media.
You've heard the saying, "you don't know what you've got until it's gone." The reality is you knew what you had, you just never thought you'd lose it. I knew Torrey Ward was something special the moment I saw him as he played ball at Phillips High School in Birmingham. The kid had chops and he had charisma. Ward not only won the AHSAA Slam Dunk Competition, he did so with a look that let you know that his chosen sport was his calling.
As Ward went onto play at UAB, he became a crowd favorite with his vertical leap, confidence and leadership. As the UAB basketball program weathered the retirement of Coach Gene Bartow, it was Torrey Ward who energized Murry Bartow's team. Between 1996 and 2000, Ward would score nearly 800 points, be voted the CUSA Defensive Player Of The Year runner-up, and earn CUSA Player Of The Week three times. He would also help lead the Blazers into the NIT and then the NCAA Tournament.
After his high-flying playing days, Torrey Ward would soon earn his degree in justice sciences. Then it was off to China to play alongside Yao Ming, then back to the states to pursue a coaching career. Ward spent time coaching at Jacksonville State and Ole Miss. He had recently been promoted to the role of associate head coach at Illinois State University. A limitless future snuffed out at the age of 36. This one hurts.
Down through the decades as a TV anchor, I have met many fine young athletes who I consider "go to" interviews, interesting people who can talk as much about the arts and politics as they can SportsCenter highlights. Athletes like John Croyle, Greg McElroy, Gene Stallings, Pat Sullivan, Charles Barkley, Pat Dye, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Tony Stewart, Payne Stewart, Jack Nicklaus, Derek Jeter, Deion Sanders, Terry Bradhsaw and Darrell Waltrip are just a few of the folks that I have enjoyed talking with.
Also on the list? The kid from Birmingham, Torrey Ward. As soon as that microphone turned on, I knew I would get passion, honesty and great sound that would make any talk with Torrey a pleasure.
My thoughts and prayers are with Torrey's wife and mother Janice, who to this day one of the biggest UAB basketball boosters you can find. I pray that as Torrey's children grow older, they remember that Torrey was a special guy to hundreds if not thousands. While the world of sports certainly can use more people like Torrey, I'm one of the lucky ones who had a chance to absorb his unbridled passion and his love for life.
I'll never forget Torrey Ward. Will you?