Ward is in his second season at Illinois after joining the Fighting Illini staff as an assistant coach in December 2011, coming to Champaign from Toledo along with head coach Tim Beckman and assistant coach Alex Golesh.
A 20-year veteran of the coaching profession, Ward guided Mason Monheim to a stellar freshman campaign in 2012, as the rookie linebacker earned second-team Freshman All-America honors from Phil Steele after leading the Illini and all Big Ten freshmen with 86 tackles.
Prior to coming to Illinois, Ward was the assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator on Beckman's staff at Toledo from 2009-11 and was instrumental in the rapid development of the Rockets' defense. The last two seasons, the Toledo defense ranked among the national leaders in turnovers forced and turnover margin. In 2010, the Rockets forced 34 turnovers, the fifth-highest takeaway total in the nation and 13 more than the previous season. That total included 20 interceptions, the eighth-most in the country. In 2011, Toledo forced 28 turnovers and had the third-best turnover margin in the nation (1.33).
The defensive turnaround helped propel Toledo to an 8-5 season and its first bowl appearance in five years in 2010, and an 8-4 season, a share of the MAC West Division title and a berth in the Military Bowl in 2011. Ward, who coached the linebackers, also helped guide five players to All-MAC honors the past two years.
Prior to coaching at Toledo, Ward spent 17 years as an assistant at Bowling Green, including five years working with Beckman (2000-04) and the final two as the defensive coordinator. He began as the program's strength coach from 1992-99 before coaching the defensive linemen from 2000-06 and serving as the defensive coordinator in 2007-08. From 2000-08, Ward coached one All-American, one Academic All-American and nine All-MAC performers. The Falcons had six winning seasons and played in three bowl games during that span.
Prior to becoming a Falcon, Ward was an assistant football coach and strength coach at his alma mater, Georgetown College, for two years. Ward earned a bachelor's degree in health and physical education from Georgetown in 1984. He later earned a graduate degree in secondary education from Georgetown. As a player at Georgetown, he earned second-team NAIA Division I All-America football honors as a guard in 1983.
After completing his education at Georgetown, Ward was an assistant football coach at the University of Findlay for six years. He served as the linebacker coach and the strength and conditioning coordinator for the Oilers before leaving to join BGSU in 1992.
A Mansfield, Ohio, native, Ward attended Mansfield Lexington High School. He is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. His colleagues in the MAC twice named him as the NSCA Professional of the Year. Ward and his wife, Jody, have two children, Michaela and Addison.