At his heart, Jimmie Ward said, he is a hard-hitting safety, not a versatile nickel cornerback.
Ward used the word "like" then switched to "love" when describing his preference for big, impactful tackles in open space on the football field.
"But turnovers are worth more," he said.
The San Francisco 49ers rookie recorded his first NFL interception from his cornerback position in the team's 21-7 victory over the visiting San Diego Chargers on Sunday afternoon at Levi's® Stadium.
Ward is listed as a defensive back on the team's roster, as he played both corner and safety at Northern Illinois and is competing at both spots three preseason games into his pro career.
"Oh yeah, you should've seen my enthusiasm on that play," Ward, who appeared so excited after the interception that he couldn't stand, said postgame. "I was just too much in it, and I tried to celebrate with my team a little bit, but I'm just glad to make a play."
The best images from the 49ers hosting the Chargers in the team's final home exhibition contest before the regular season.
Ward's pick came on a Chargers pass deflected by both rookie outside linebacker Aaron Lynch and rookie cornerback Dontae Johnson.
"I congratulated (Johnson) on that," Ward said, "but I still was able to make the play."
For his early production in training camp, Ward credited defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and secondary coaches Ed Donatell and Greg Jackson by name.
They "did a good job of pampering me a little bit because of my foot injury," he said. "But now since I've been back, (Perrish Cox) was the other nickel back, he's been helping me out a lot.
"You can coach a lot of stuff, but you have to go into the game to learn something new... Every time I go out here, I learn something new. On one of the plays – I don't know if you caught it – I kind pulled in with number (three) and picked up the 'back. Just off that, in two seconds, I almost got cracked. Hard lesson learned."
In his 55-game college career, Ward recorded four fumble recoveries and 11 interceptions, including seven in his senior season last year.
He also never went a game without recording a tackle.
"You can argue that, about big hits and turnovers," he told a reporter, "but I think I like turnovers better."
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