Friends and family of Scott Ward remember him as a leader | VailDaily.com

Friends and family of Scott Ward remember him as a leader

EAGLE COUNTY — You wanted Scott Ward at the controls, whether it was Air Force One or Battle Mountain High School's football team.

Ward piloted both successfully.

Ward was always a leader as he moved through his too-short life, from local high school football at Battle Mountain, to commanding thousands of people in the Air Force, to sitting at the controls of Air Force One.

"It doesn't amaze me that the president of the United States says, 'This is the guy we want in the cockpit,'" said Pat Phelan, one of Ward's football coaches at Battle Mountain. "Everyone around him said, 'Scott's in control. We're going to be fine.'"

Ward was military to his very marrow. He was so trusted, he was tabbed to fly refueling missions over the nation's capital for military jets flying cover during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

He retired from the Air Force about six weeks ago and went to work for Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. as a test pilot.

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How it happened

Guys like Ward aren't supposed to die like this.

About 8:30 a.m. Aug. 10 in Savannah, Georgia, Ward was driving his 2004 Lexus southbound on Georgia Highway 25. A leaf spring shook loose from a tractor-trailer, flew through the front windshield and out the back window of Ward's car.

Ward was injured and airlifted to Memorial Hospital in Savannah. He died from his injuries, said Tracey Watson, of the Georgia State Patrol.

Ward, 47, is survived by his wife, Jennet, and their three sons, Cole (12), Jake (11) and Zach (9), and his canine buddy, Desmond. Additionally, his mother Shirley Ward, of Eagle-Vail; his sister, Stephanie Ward Archibeque (married to Ted), of Eagle, and their two daughters, Isabella (10) and Zoey (7); his sister, Stacey Ward Kerek (married to Phil), of Houston, Texas; and his brother, Richard Ward, of Denver (married to Tami), and his two daughters, Kendall Jackson (18) and Allie Jackson (18); and his aunt, Doris Bailey, of Avon.

A winner walks among us

Locally, Ward is often remembered for quarterbacking Battle Mountain's football team as it transformed from Colorado's longest losing streak to the state championship game. We'll tell you all about that in a minute.

Ask around about Ward and words like, "leader," "character" and "integrity" keep coming up.

"He didn't talk that much, but he was a great leader," said J.C. Moritz, who played Battle Mountain football with Ward. "There are followers and leaders, and he was a leader."

A lot of kids go the Air Force Academy, but not that many fly. Ward not only flew, but he flew Air Force One and everything and everyone that goes with that, Moritz said.

"Scott was a man of tremendous character," said Jeff Campbell, who shared that Battle Mountain backfield with Ward, Tim Adams and John Davis. Campbell went on to play at the University of Colorado and several years in the NFL.

"He was one of the top pilots in the world. He had to be to be at the controls of one of the world's most sophisticated aircraft and flying the president around," Campbell said.

Campbell and Ward had spoken after Ward retired from the Air Force two months ago. He was excited about his new job with Gulfstream.

"He left us way too soon," Campbell said.

Lead by example

Ward was stocky for a quarterback, and was one of the first Huskies to put up 250 pounds on the bench press.

"It was his way of saying that the rest of us better get it done, too," Moritz said.

That group transitioned from football to hockey, to play for Bob Dorf. Ward was a defenseman.

"He was fun to coach. You'd tell him what he had to do, and he'd do it. You never forget kids like Scott," Dorf said.

Tim Adams and Ward also transitioned to lacrosse, long before anyone around here played it. They'd carry their lacrosse sticks around like they were dream catchers, and yes, they caught their dreams. They both went to the Air Force Academy and played lacrosse.

A coaches' dream

Steve Moran and Phelan coached that legendary Battle Mountain football team. When they were juniors, Moran said he knew he had something special, especially with Ward at the helm.

"He was great at decision making. That's why he did so well in the Air Force. Scott was great. He was a leader. He was tough. My heart aches. I just loved the kid," Moran said.

"He was the leader of an extremely talented team," Phelan said.

"It's hard to talk about Scotty without getting emotional," Phelan said.

Battle Mountain was mired in Colorado's longest football losing streak — six winless seasons — when that crew showed up for their freshman season.

"We needed someone with his brain and his temperament to run the show," Phelan said.

Moran installed a triple option offense, which meant Ward had to make multiple decisions on every play.

"Do I hand it to Johnny Davis, who's the number-two rusher in the state? Or do I pitch it to Jeff Campbell, who's the number-one rusher in the state? Or do I keep it (Ward rushed for more than 800 yards their senior season), or do I throw it?" Phelan said.

Ward could read defenses like they were a large-print comic book, and his decision-making was invariably spot on.

"Sometimes we'd go back and look at the film and see we were wrong and he was right. Coaches' egos are such that they don't like to admit they're wrong, but we did that season on more than one occasion," Phelan said.

That championships game

Battle Mountain was leading when Roaring Fork High School scored with less than two minutes left. The ensuring kickoff sailed out of the end zone, and Ward put his Huskies to work at their own 20, with 80 yards to cover and two timeouts.

For years, at the end of every practice, Battle Mountain practiced its no-huddle offense, and now they needed it.

"It was remarkable watching him lead that team down the field. It was beautiful. It was so amazing," Moran said.

They ran out of timeouts, so Phelan sent junior tight end Hayward Lafferty into the game with simple but emotional instructions: "Mr. Phelan says you gotta throw the ball!"

Ward gathered himself and his teammates, dropped back and threw a touchdown strike to Lafferty. The Huskies trailed by one.

There were about 15 seconds left in the game, and the Huskies piled on each other in a huge end zone celebration.

As they were celebrating, the referee set the ball and started the clock. The coaches were screaming, but no one could hear them. It was Ward, of course, who realized what needed to be done.

Ward pulled them out of that pile and onto the line of scrimmage. With the last ticks of their high school football career winding down, he pitched to Campbell who was stopped about six inches from the end zone — and the state title they'd chased for so long.

Lessons that last

Like so many things that happen to you when you're young, not quite winning that title was painful, but didn't do any permanent damage.

"It left a taste in our mouth that none of us ever wanted to experience again, but it also taught us about hard work and loving each other as teammates," Campbell said. "Even though we lost, we really won. Look at that group of kids. We all went on to become successful."

Phelan and others are lobbying to have Ward's football jersey number, 12, be on Battle Mountain's helmets right next to the Huskies logo.

It seems like the least we can do.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Memorial Service

A memorial service will be held at the Air Force Academy at 10 a.m. Friday, in the U.S. Air Force Academy Chapel.

Guests arriving for the service should enter at the North Gate of the USAFA and be through the gate with a government-issued ID (driver’s license) no later than 9:15 a.m. Base access will be given at gate. Follow signs to chapel parking. It will take approximately 25 minutes to drive, park and walk to the chapel.

A basket will be available at the chapel for cards with well wishes.

To honor the life of Lt. Col. Scott C. Ward, the family cordially invites you to join them at the Marriott Hotel, 5580 Tech Center Drive. To get there take I-25 South and exit at South Rockrimmon Blvd. (3 exits south of the USAFA North Gate Exit). Noon-3 p.m. following the service.

To help

In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the Scott Ward Memorial Fund at

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