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Those words have ruined more interviews with Charlie than dead microphones. "Charlie doesn't put any life in his interviews," says Seminole cornerback Clifton Abraham. "He'll be doing some conference call, and we'll say, 'Charlie, you're so dull, they're gonna hang up on you, son!' "
Charlie is what is known in journalism as a leaner, meaning you have to lean forward to make out what he says. His freshman year, in one of his first games on the Florida State basketball team, Charlie heard coach Pat Kennedy excoriate his players during a timeout, cursing a few times for emphasis. Charlie turned to somebody on the bench and asked, "Can't he say that without yelling?"
Kennedy figured out a funny thing: He could.
You can learn a lot from Charlie. If you lean close enough, Charlie can be very interesting. His father is a terrific history teacher, and his mother was arrested in a civil rights demonstration in Tallahassee in 1963, when she was a student at Florida A&M. Today, Charlie Jr. believes, for instance, that Proposition 48 is a bad idea. Failing a standardized ACT that may be culturally biased, he says, can keep a lot of good minority students out of school. "There are a lot of guys playing football right now and doing very well in school who are living proof of that," Charlie says. Come to think of it, Charlie is one of them. Though he had good grades in high school, his ACT score was low enough to make him a Prop 48 casualty and deny him admission to Florida State. But Charlie didn't want to be a Prop 48 casualty, so he went to Tallahassee Community College for a year, retook the test and made it into Florida State. When he graduated on Dee. 18, he had a grade point average of 3.3 in his major, therapeutic recreation.
Charlie also thinks it's time for schools to set up trust funds to pay athletes after their college playing careers are over. Each athlete would sign a contract in which he agreed to meet certain goals—such as finishing school. When he graduated, he would get his small percentage of the profits he helped the college earn.
Not that Charlie will ever have to worry about profits. The only question he has to answer is which sport should start writing him checks.
•It ought to be basketball. "If he chooses the NBA, there's no question he can make it," says Cleveland Cavalier scout Pete Newell. "He may not be that good a shooter, but he can work on that and get better. His decision-making is excellent."
True, Charlie is not much of a scorer, but last season he made nearly three times as many assists as turnovers and had more steals than turnovers, too. Your average NBA general manager will send a limo to your house every afternoon if you can do that.
"Remember, now," says Kennedy, "he doesn't even pick up a basketball until January. If I'd had him all year for the last four years, he'd have an excellent long-range jumper. It's all in the wrists, just like in football. And he's got great wrists."
North Carolina coaching god Dean Smith once said that if he could pick one player from Florida State's roster, it would be Charlie Ward. NBA scouting god Marty Blake has said that "Charlie is the best point guard in America."