Baltimore Ravens reserve defensive end Jihad Ward, a product of now-defunct Edward Bok Technical High School, has a dream. The pride and joy of 16th Street and Lehigh Avenue envisions himself one day playing for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’m from Philly,” said Ward, who will be on the field when the Ravens (4-1) play the Eagles (1-3-1) Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play at home. I’ve been in the (National Football League) for five years and I’ve been getting closer and closer. It’s a sign. I was (an Oakland) Raider (to begin my career) and any transaction I’ve made, I’ve gotten closer to home. It’s God telling me to get closer, get closer. It’s a sign. You never know. Maybe God just wants me to be closer to my family in Philly.”
After stints with the Raiders, the Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts, the 6-foot-5, 287-pounder is only 100 miles away in Baltimore with the Ravens. He thoroughly enjoys wearing Baltimore’s purple, black and metallic gold uniform but he can see himself one day running out of the tunnel in a midnight green, white and black Eagles jersey.
“That’s a dream,” he said, “playing at home for my city. It’s always been a dream. I have to be real on that one. I love this whole NFL experience. Being a Raven is amazing but in the future, long term, I would love to play at home. That’s one of my dreams.”
When he coached Ward as a sophomore and junior at Bok, Tom DeFelice saw something special.
“It was his eyes,” DeFelice said. “You looked into his eyes and you could tell that he was determined, that he wanted to make a difference. I would feed off the energy he gave and I had his locker in front so that all of the guys could see what I saw when they entered the locker room. Jihad gives you a great feeling to be around him.”
Ward, who began playing football as a wide receiver and safety at Bok as a sophomore, showed promise when he was converted to defensive end as a junior. He was an All-City choice in 2010 and 2011 before going to now-closed Globe Institute of Technology in New York City for two years. There he improved academically and athletically, which helped enable him to transfer to the University of Illinois.
He showed promise with the Illini. In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Raiders grabbed Ward in the second round. He was the 44th overall selection. And that’s where his NFL journey began. He’s played through injuries, endured surgeries, been traded (by the Raiders), been waived (by the Dallas Cowboys), been released (by the Colts), been signed (by the Ravens) and more recently re-signed by Baltimore.
“It feels really good to be a Baltimore Raven,” Ward said. “Everybody knows I’m a Philly guy. For me, it feels good to be close to home but I love being a Baltimore Raven.”
“I would say we’re very good. It’s a brotherhood. One thing I can say about this game, you have to trust each other. You have to build yourself a family. Everybody knows I’m not a quitter. I don’t give up. Teammates know I’m going to get things done. Not in a negative way, in a positive way. I’m going to do everything I can to get it right.”