Things You (Probably) Should Know about 49ers DB Jimmie Ward

He was raised in Wisconsin and Alabama, played his college ball in Illinois and is now a key contributor for an NFL team in California. Beyond the aforementioned places of residence, there's a lot more to know about a certain third-year pro for the San Francisco 49ers.

So how about we continue our "(Probably) Should Know" series with a cheese-fries loving defensive back, who is related to a former World Champion NBA All-Star, best friends with a Niners teammate and loves to study film.

First, we helped you get to know Pierre Garçon.

Now, it's Jimmie Ward's turn to get the #Niners365 treatment.

... You probably should know that he's coming off of his best NFL season.

Ward earned the Matt Hazeltine award as the franchise's most courageous and inspirational defensive player in 2015. Ward saw action in all 16 games for the first time of his two-year career. He started in eight contests and recorded 65 tackles, his first career sack as well as an interception and touchdown all on the same play. More on that in a second.

Ward's on-field performance improved throughout the regular season. In the last four weeks of the year, opposing quarterbacks had a 32.3 passer rating when targeting Ward, according to Pro Football Focus. It was the best among all NFL cornerbacks during that four-week span.

Ward's most memorable moment was the interception in Week 13. He correctly jumped a quick pass from Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and ran it back for a 29-yard pick-six. It turned out to be a pivotal moment in a 26-20, overtime road victory.

Ward accentuated the takeaway by doing a front flip into the end zone.

"I'm not a dancer," Ward explained in a recent appearance on the 49ers Radio podcast. "I just flipped because I'm kind of elusive. I was just really excited. (It was) spur of the moment. ... I wouldn't do it again. I'd take that back. I'm really not that type of guy. I really don't like to celebrate. I feel like I'm doing enough with my play. I'm not really a talker on the field either."

... You probably should know that he grew up with a 49ers teammate.

Ward attended Davidson High School in Mobile, Ala., along with Niners safety Jaquiski Tartt. Ward explained that "Quaski" did not start playing football until his senior year. The defenders led the Davidson Warriors to the Class 6A Region 1 football championship in 2009. Tartt showed early promise and committed to Samford. Ward, on the other hand, moved back to the Midwest to play college ball at Northern Illinois.

Ward was later selected 30th overall by the Niners in the 2014 NFL Draft. General manager Trent Baalke followed the pick by bringing Tartt to the Niners with the 46th overall selection in last year's draft.

"I was ecstatic," Tartt said on May, 1, 2015. "I prayed to God to put me in the right spot, and he came through for me. I ended up on a team with my best friend." The two defensive backs strengthened their unique bond in the Bay Area last season. It continued as they worked out together in Pensacola, Fla., prior to the team's offseason training program.

"We were really trying to push ourselves," Ward said of the training sessions. "We were getting in some beach workouts, so that's always cool, too."

The workout location also put the NFL players 45 minutes from their homes in Mobile. Each DB made sure to spend time with loved ones. Ward said he doesn't get tired of being around the easy-going, hard-hitting, Tartt.

"We're the complete opposites," Ward said. "It's more than just teammates. It's like a brotherhood. We talk about stuff on and off the field."... You probably should know that he loves being in the film room.

Take a look back at the best moments in the two-year career of San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward.

It dates back to his college years.

"I remember falling asleep in the film room," Ward said. "Coach used to have to wake me up. But in college it clicked. I remember my sophomore year (changing positions from cornerback to safety). I remember watching film one time and I saw much different stuff (on film) that really helped me in the game."

Ward took notice to route concepts like never before. He also began to pick up on tendencies from the opposing offensive personnel.

"Now, I study tight ends," Ward said. "I study running backs. I study wide receivers. I study quarterbacks."

So what does the defensive back look for when analyzing an opposing signal-caller?

"How smart is he?" Ward began. "Does he look off? Does he look right at his wide receivers? Does he make checks? Who is he looking at to make his read? Is he looking at the nickel? Is he looking at the safety? Is he watching the linebackers? There's so much to read."

Ward cited a game against the Cincinnati Bengals last season in which his film study led to a tackle-for-loss. Ward read the play based on the lineman's blocking techniques and was able knife into the backfield and record a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

"That's what it's about," Ward said. "Making plays. Being a quarterback on defense."
... You probably should know that his older cousin is NBA star Caron Butler.

How many Niners are related to a two-time NBA All-Star and one-time NBA Champion?

Just Ward.

The Niners defensive back, like Butler, was born in Racine, Wisc. Ward, however, moved to Mobile, at the age of 6 and quickly picked up his passion for playing football. Ward remains close with Butler, who he calls his "big unc."

"It's more than just family," Ward said. "He's a friend, too.

"Everybody needs that push, and he's there to drive me, too, sometimes. He tells me what I need to do. He gives me a layout about the whole NFL, NBA, it's really the same thing - being a professional athlete. So I really appreciate that from him, too."

Ward said his family still has love for the Green Bay Packers and that his late grandfather would have loved to see him compete against the NFC North foe last season. Side note: Ward held Randall Cobb to four catches for 44 yards in one of the young defensive back's best performances in 2015.

"I always think about my granddad," Ward said. "If he was alive, he would have loved to watch that game." Butler and Ward have made sure to watch each other play in recent seasons. Take a look at some of their recent Instagram posts from attending Sacramento Kings and Niners games.

@49ers game rooting for @nekosuave25 #FamilyFirst #CheeseHead#TuffJuice

A post shared by Caron Butler (@caronbutler) on

#sacramentoproud #kings#TuffJuice

A post shared by Caron Butler (@caronbutler) on

... You probably should know that his NFL dreams were almost derailed because of a certain comfort food.Cheese fries.

Yes, cheese fries.

Before Ward teamed up with Bengals quarterback A.J. McCarron on the Municipal Park Raiders in Mobile's Youth Football Conference, the young defensive back had a passion for snacks. It also led him to miss practice.

"I wanted cheese fries," Ward said with a laugh. "I didn't know anything about established football. I just went outside to play football. Then my stepfather told me, 'You're not going to get any cheese fries if you're not going to play football, so that kind of killed me. So I was like, 'Next year, I'm going to play because I want to go get cheese fries.'"

Ward's unique motivation led him to be a defensive lineman for the Raiders and later the captain of the defense, opposite McCarron, the captain of the offense.

When asked if cheese fries still remain a reward after a good workout or big game in the NFL, Ward said that sometimes he dabbles in the throwback snack.

"It's still my favorite food," he said,"but at the same time, I can't eat cheese fries. It's not good for you." ... You probably should know that he is one of many Niners on Snapchat.

See for yourself.

... You probably should know that his barber has skills.

Watch out Antonio Brown!

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