Raiders Second Round Pick DE Jihad Ward: "I'm happy to be a Raider"

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Q: Where were you when you got the news? What was the setting like?

Ward:"I got the news when I was at my D-line coach's house and the rest of the rush members, the D-lineman, the coach's family, coach [Mike] Phair was there and it was just exciting. I was waiting for the phone call. I'm officially a Raider. I still can't believe it to this day. Wow."

Q: Did you have any contact with them during the pre-draft process?

Ward:"Yeah, I had contact with them. They liked the way I worked. They were just telling me how everything was going on. They liked my work ethic and to keep grinding with it and to stay hungry with it. It isn't over for me.  I'm happy to be a Raider."

Q: Did you visit out here?

Ward:"No I haven't. Actually, I visited in California but it was in Los Angeles, to be honest with you, because I went to [visit] JUCO at [Los Angeles] Pierce [College], and I have a couple of JUCO players over there, they wanted me to come visit to workout with them and chill with them, but that was my first time. I've never really been to the West Coast like that to be honest with you because I'm more of a city guy, Philadelphia."

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Q: What do you consider to be the strengths of your game?**

Ward:"You know passer-wise and fighting with the D-linemen, rushing the ball and do what I do best, just make the team win. I just love competing; that's what I like to do, and I'll have more of that. I'm just so excited right now. I'm so speechless. It will come. I'm really speechless right now."

Q: I was reading one of your bios that you made the change in junior college going from safety and wide receiver to the defensive line. What brought about that change? Did you just become too big for the other positions?

Ward:"Yeah, I was just really getting big. I was playing wide receiver and defensive back at the time, and I started learning defensive end my senior year of high school and it just kept developing as I got bigger. I was more of an offensive player playing tight end in JUCO and defensive end fitted me. My JUCO coach told me about it, and I was just with it. I just wanted to get out there on the field. It didn't matter what position, I just wanted to get out there. After getting heavier and heavier, just maintaining my speed, and I was really a D-lineman going on in JUCO, so I was just sticking with it and sticking with it. I'm still learning the game."

Q: Was that something that they gradually introduced or were they still using you on offense and letting you play some defensive end or  did you become a full-time defensive end right away?

Ward:"You know, for certain plays they had me at tight end… Yeah, most of the time they had me at tight end and then my freshman year going into my sophomore year, I was starting to get a little feel for the D-lineman and when you're in JUCO, you have to find out what position that you're going to face when you get to Division-I, so they chose D-lineman and I was with it. I liked D-lineman better and we just stuck with it."

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Action photos of Raiders 2016 2nd round draft pick DE Jihad Ward in college.

Q: Did you think you would get drafted this high? Were you surprised when you got the phone call?**

Ward: "I was more surprised at getting the phone call and that the Raiders were giving me the opportunity. When the phone rang, I was patiently waiting for the phone call and my heart kept beating every time it rang. It didn't matter what round the call came in as long as I am in there. I am stuck with it. I am stuck with the Raiders. It didn't matter if it was the third or fourth round, I just could not wait to get that phone call. This is a dream come true and I still cannot believe it to this day."

Q: It looks like your numbers went down last year. Is there any reason behind that?

Ward: "Everybody doesn't always have a good season. Numbers don't lie at the end of the day, but that is how you learn from situations. You learn from it and get better and don't give up. There is still time to shine out there. Everybody knows that I didn't have the best numbers last season, but it is all about getting better and learning from your mistakes making sure you don't have those mistakes again. I am here to learn from the vets on out there, the D-linemen, with [Bruce] Irvin and them, one of the best head coaches in the NFL, and I'm just ready."

Q: Did the Raiders talk to you about how you might fit in on the defensive line?

Ward:"I can play either side. After talking with them, I will do anything I can do to make the team better – three technique, inside, pass rush, or setting the edge. I want to win. I will do everything in my power to win. Put me at tackle, I'll play. They want me to set the edge, I will set the edge for them. I am just here to be a part of the team and make the team great."

Q: What kind of player do you see yourself being at the next level?

Ward: "I see myself getting off the ball, being one of the good pass rushers out there and be a great run stopper. I just want to be one of the best D-lineman out there. I just want to be one of the best D-lineman and feel good with the D-line that I'm in right now. You've got Irvin, as I said, one of the great D-lineman out there, so it's just a good feeling. The strength for me is that I just keep fighting. The effort is there. The effort is there."

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Q: You went through a lot in junior college just getting yourself from practice and back. In what ways has that shaped you and affected what you are trying to do now?**

Ward: "I still have that mindset with me. I still have it. I still act like I am in JUCO. I just keep grinding, keep staying uncomfortable, and staying uncomfortable is staying focused. If I do something good, don't even worry about it; that's in the past. What's next? I just have the same mindset as I keep going. I don't want to hear the good stuff that is coming out. I want to hear the stuff that I need to work on. That is the part of being a good defensive lineman. So, I am just having the same mindset that it isn't over. Every day, my mindset is just that it isn't over. I still will push myself to where I need to be to this day."

Q: What did it take to win Illinois' Wright Commitment to Excellence Award?

Ward:"It just takes hard work, just grinding out there to do what you have to do. I'm very excited and just [inaudible] staying uncomfortable, every day, just staying uncomfortable. You just keep going and going – it doesn't stop. So as long as you have that with you, you should have no problem."

Q: What's your physical status? How quickly can you be on the field?

Ward:"I can be on the field very quickly. I had a little knee injury earlier in the season, actually got better. They said I was going to miss four games with that and come to find out I was back the first game. So I was quickly moving. I didn't really worry about the injury. I was just out there grinding with my brothers that were on the D-line. I'm 100 percent clean on that one. I'm pretty good. I'm healthy."

Q: So you're not going to need surgery?

Ward:"No. If the situation is, again, if it's a situation that needs to be handled, yeah, I would see what's going on with that. If it doesn't need to be… If nothing is wrong with it, then it shouldn't be right for me to have surgery and stuff like that. If it's fine, it's fine. We can see what's going on. If it's wrong, then we just have to fix it."

Q: Which knee was it?

Ward:"It was the right knee."

Q: What was the specific diagnosis?

Ward:"It was just a little, small tear in the meniscus."

Q: But you don't need surgery right now?

Ward:"Well, I had a surgery earlier in the season. I just had a scope and it was pretty fine. They had to MRI ever since. If I need to get it checked out again, we can check it out. I don't want to be at camp or on the field then they see my knee is messed up. We can check it out again. It depends what the team… If they want me to get it checked out, we can get it checked out. I feel fine. It is what it is. If I need surgery or something like that, then I'll get it."

Q: How did you approach the Ohio State game where you were getting double-teamed?

Ward:"You know, just do what you have to do to win games. They had a lot of good offensive linemen at Ohio State and it's all about competing. I wanted to be out there. I wanted to stand out there. If you want to be great, you have to go against the great. Ohio State O-linemen, they're all good O-linemen. Of course I got double-teamed a lot, but it's just football. That's what happens when you're in the three technique or in the five technique. Those guys are good. I was just out there just trying to prove myself and leave my mark. I wanted them to remember me after the game and let them know this guy is tough."

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