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Hometown MVP: Cleveland Browns defensive back Denzel Ward

When you think of Denzel Ward, you might think of a star cornerback for the Browns. But Denzel and his family are making a difference off the field.

CLEVELAND — There’s nothing better than watching a kid from northeast Ohio make a big play for the Cleveland Browns on Sundays.

Denzel Ward is the Browns dominating starting cornerback.

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We watched Denzel grow up right before our eyes, from Nordonia High School, to playing on a national stage, right down I-71 at Ohio State in front of Buckeye Nation.

And then, a football career that went full circle – being drafted by the Browns as the fourth overall pick in 2018.

But this is where we stop talking football and start talking real life.

During Denzel’s freshman year at Ohio State, the unthinkable happened. His father died.

Paul Ward suffered cardiac arrest while attending a spin class – he was just 46-years old.

"He was definitely well known in the community," Denzel Ward says of his father. "He was a principal in the Bedford City School District and did a lot of things around there, and a lot where I ended up growing up in the Nordonia community as well."

Paul was beloved by so many. His family, friends and coworkers.

So, Denzel, along with his mom Nicole and brother P.J. had an idea: To start a foundation, honoring Paul Ward.

These five words say it all: Make Them Know Your Name.

"That's something that my dad, he used to say to my brother and I growing up when we were younger," Denzel recalls. "We would go out to play on the football field and before we got out there, he would yell out, 'Hey Denzel, make them know your name!' Just saying it in a positive light to go out there and make plays. But he also said it off the field, just to be a positive impact in this world, do the right things. That's how we got the name of the foundation."

The foundation’s mission is to spread awareness about heart health. 

From donating equipment to high schools like Euclid and Cleveland Heights, to providing a defibrillator and training at a gym in Cleveland Heights.

And that’s not all. Denzel also helped out when the coronavirus struck northeast Ohio. Using his jersey number of 21 to identify people or small businesses hit hardest by the deadly virus.

Nicole Ward couldn’t be more proud of the work the foundation is doing, plus she gets to spend time with her two sons.

And for Denzel, the outstanding work we get to see him and his family do in honor of his late father is an inspiration.

"That just goes to show the type of man he was and the impact that he left on this world. And so, me myself, I'm just trying to be half the man that my Dad was and continue to make him proud, make my family proud, and be a positive impact in this community," he says. 

On the field, there is some great news for Browns fans, Ward is back practicing with the team, after missing the last three games with a calf injury. 

Ward could be on the field in time for Sunday Night Football on Channel 3 and NBC as the Browns battle the Giants in New York.

Click here for more information about Make Them Know Your Name.

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