When Lorenzo Ward was called to the coach's office last month, The Citadel's junior fullback began rummaging through the memory banks.
Had he been late to a meeting? Missed a workout?
The answers were no and no.
"So I knew it couldn't be anything too bad," he said.
In fact, the news from Citadel coach Brent Thompson was great.
Ward, who had come to The Citadel as a lightly recruited walk-on in 2015, was now on scholarship. There were no video cameras around to record the moment, no teammates to yell and scream and pound Ward on the back.
Just a handshake and a hug between coach and player.
"I thought he was going to cry," Thompson recalled. "So I shook his hand and hugged him and said, you deserve everything you are getting."
Said Ward, "I looked down at the paper, then looked up at Coach Thompson a few times. Then I signed on the line. It was a great moment for me."
Ward, generously listed at 5-10 and 211 pounds, certainly earned his scholarship and starting job the hard way. With 124 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in last week's 28-21 loss at Wofford, Ward ran for 100 yards for the first time as a Bulldog, and was The Citadel's best player on offense.
Not bad for a kid whose only other offers out of Columbia's Dreher High School were as preferred walk-ons at Furman and South Carolina State, or a chance to make the team at South Carolina, where his father, Lorenzo, was defensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier.
It was a bit frustrating for the younger Ward, who was a productive player in high school, running for at least 1,000 yards in three straight seasons and playing on the top-ranked basketball team in the state.
"It was a little heart-wrenching," he said. "But I knew my abilities, and I knew I could play the sport I love at the next level. I just wanted to play football."
With former Citadel great Everette Sands on the staff at USC, Ward felt comfortable about the offer to walk on with the Bulldogs, and played on the scout team his first two seasons.
Last season, he played in 11 games, mostly as a backup to Brandon Rainey at fullback. Ward showed his potential against VMI with 79 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries, then ran 14 times for 40 yards against Clemson.
This season, with Rainey moving back to his original position at quarterback, Ward fought off challenges from sophomore Brandon Berry and true freshmen Cliff Harris and Emeka Nwanze to earn the starting fullback job in preseason camp.
"I'm the smallest one in the group," Ward said. "But those guys push me to where I have to be on top of my game. And I also push myself to teach them, to get them to where I am so there won't be any drop off if I'm not in there."
As an undersized Division III player himself, Thompson sees a bit of himself in Ward.
"Those guys are out there for the love of the game," Thompson said of walk-ons. "And as a D-III guy myself, I know exactly what that's like. So I want to reward those guys as best I can."
With his dad coaching at Virginia Tech, Arkansas and USC as Ward grew up, the younger Ward spent a lot of time on the practice field with various Hokies, Razorbacks and Gamecocks.
He and fellow Bulldog Lane Botkin, whose dad Kirk coached with Lorenzo Sr. at Arkansas and USC, are so tight that Ward calls Botkin's mother, Becca, his "second mom."
"After school, or even after our practice, I'd have my mom drop me off at (USC's) practice," Ward said. "I'd see my dad, I'd know everybody. I helped warm up the DBs before his games and practices. Me and Lane would catch punts together, so it was a lot of fun."
Ward's mom, Tara, was in the stands at Wofford to see her son's first 100-yard game in college. But Lorenzo Sr., now associate head coach at Louisville, was with the Cardinals in Orlando to face defending national champ Alabama, which won by 51-14.
Ward was eager to let his dad know about his big night. But, as a coach's son, he knows it's all about the team.
"They had a tough loss, just like us," he said. "So I just sent him a text: 'Keep your head up and on to the next one, just like us.'"
• The Citadel had seven true freshmen play against Wofford: P Matthew Campbell, DB Chris Beverly, bandit Destin Mack, DL Mason Kinsey, B-back Clay Harris, LB Joe Douglas and DB Ryland Ayers.
• Defensive end Aaron Brawley was the Bulldogs' top tackler against Wofford with seven, while safety Aron Spann III had five, and five players had four each. Linebacker Noah Dawkins had the lone tackle for loss, and also made two interceptions.
• Among the four grad-student transfers on defense, LB Isaac Stewart (Louisville) had four tackles, while DB Ronald Peterkin (Georgia State) had one. DL Shawn McCord played but did not record a stop.