Fifth-year veteran T.J. Ward has manned an important role on a very talented Broncos defense and is stuffing the stat sheet while playing all over the field. He's second on the team in total tackles (48) and has a sack, three tackles for loss, four QB hits and five passes defensed. We caught up with him to discuss his NFL-heavy family and how he's settled into the Mile High City.
T.J. stands for Terrell Jr., correct? What sort of influence has your dad had on you?
"I mean he's always been there, always been a coach, very supportive of all and everything that I would do."
Your dad was drafted in the NFL (a seventh-round pick of the Eagles in 1980), your brother plays at Oregon State and your cousin is Maurice Jones-Drew. That's a pretty athletic family.
"Yeah you could say that. Hard working. Not just athletic, but hard working."
Was there a lot of competition when you were younger?
"Yeah pretty competitive growing up. But I think that's just how we were raised. Always competing, always trying to be the best."
You've had the chance to face Jones-Drew three times now, including Week 10 in Oakland. Any big hits you've dished out?
"We played last year and I chopped him pretty good a couple times (laughs). But he's a hard guy to get a complete hit on. He's kind of solid and low to the ground, so it's tough."
What's it like knowing you guys came from the same family and get to compete on that stage?
"Yeah it's definitely a blessing. We've both been in the league for a while now so it's a great feeling, knowing that growing up, you played each other all your lives, and now you get to do it at the highest stage of football, which you've been working your whole life for. It's good that we both are able to experience that."
You've obviously got a very physical playing style. Is that where the "Boss" nickname came from?
"I don't know if it was just my physical style. I think it was just my play in general. I got it in college and just kind of stuck. I like it. It's more of a mentality."
How do you feel like you've settled in here in Denver?
"Time has flown by, actually. But I'm still getting adjusted. I'm still not completely – in one year, you can only do so much in one year. It takes time to learn things and get adjusted. But every teammate has helped me a lot. They're good guys."
You're part of a very talented secondary. How is that talent meshing with the different positions and styles?
"I think we've been working well together. Like I said, we still are learning as we go along, learning about each other, learning the system, how things fit. But yeah this is probably one of the most talented secondaries I've played in, for sure."
You've had the opportunity to play a lot of sub-package linebacker, which you also did in Cleveland. What do you like about that role?
"I definitely like it. I like to be at safety and then I just go down and play in the box a bit more. It's something that I'm good at and I like to do it. It gives us some freedom on defense as a whole. And I just like to be played at different places at different times so you can't count on me being in one area. And I like to blitz. It allows me to blitz a little bit more."
You nabbed your first pick as a Bronco in front of friends and family in Oakland (Ward is from San Francisco). What was that moment like?**
"You know it was a great feeling, just to get a pick in general, my first one. Get that monkey off my back. And hopefully now I get to keep it going. But it definitely meant a little more to play and to get it in front of my family so they could see it and see me in person, because they're very supportive. So it was good to do that in front of them."
Your years in Cleveland didn't finish how you'd want them to – does it light a little extra fire to play on this team?
"Regardless of what we were doing in Cleveland, I always had high expectations for me and my team. It wasn't the best seasons record-wise, but I still had a great time there. I learned a lot. And just coming here, like you said, there are higher expectations as a whole and just a lot more expected from you I guess. But I always have high expectations for what I'm doing. So wherever I went, I had the same expectations."