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Friday, January 28, 2022

How Mississippi State football’s Christian Ford earned his scholarship

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STARKVILLE – Inside the meeting room at Leo Seal Jr. For soccer on Sunday, Mississippi State enjoyed glimpses of its victory over Kentucky the day before.

The team watched as Christian Ford was set in motion, then cut the field when quarterback Will Rogers cut the ball. They saw how Rogers got stuck in a Ford driveway, and how Ford caught him on an outboard near the sideline, keeping on his feet before sliding off limits.

And then they said, ‘Oh, and by the way, he’s now on a scholarship,’ said Glenn, Ford’s father.

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The conference room broke out.

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“Being able to share it with the rest of the guys out there has given him so much joy and strengthened us,” said linebacker Nathaniel Watson. “It means a lot to him.”

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“Just seeing one of our brothers get something he deserves, it was a very exhilarating moment, and we were very happy for him,” added Mackay Polk, who works on a large scale.

Patience pays off

Christian Ford’s road to Mississippi (5-3, 3-2 SEC) was one of self-confidence, as he left Georgia South after his freshman season red jersey and found himself at Central Iowa Community College, hoping to show enough for colleges to give him a chance Coincidence.

The plan did not go as straightforwardly as he had thought. Ford, the three-star recruit from Marietta, Georgia, first had to accept walks with the Bulldogs. He didn’t get any playing time in 2020, but as he made his mark with the scouting team, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Ford quickly convinced his coaches that he belonged on the field.

The decision paid off for Mississippi State, as Ford increased depth in a wide position and gave Rogers another credible goal that will feature again against Arkansas (5-3, 1-3) on Saturday (3 p.m., SEC Network.).

He’s seen plenty of shots this season, collecting 14 passes for 160 yards — the same number of receptions he scored in 2019 while at Iowa Central, although now he’s on a much bigger stage. Ford was announced as a candidate for the 2021 Burlesworth Cup, which is awarded annually to the top-performing college football player starting his career.

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“It was such a pleasure to know you deserve something, you just have to be patient and wait for it,” Glenn Ford said of his son, who was not provided by Mississippi for this story. “And you hope that the people around you will appreciate what you do and kind of reward you for your work. And they did.

‘same mentality’

When Christian Ford left the field after the Bulldogs’ 31-17 win against the Wildcats, he was approached by in-house reception coach Dave Nicholl.

Nicole said the Mississippi State coaching staff had already discussed the matter, and he wanted to tell his receiver ahead of time what was on the horizon. That’s when Ford first learned that the state of Mississippi would offer him a scholarship the next day.

“It’s worth it,” said Nicole. “I think it also gives something for the other non-scholarship kids to look at like, ‘Okay, that’s what I have to do.’ He (Ford) stays after practice, gets there early, but in the end, it was worth it.”

Ford called his father as soon as he entered the locker room to tell him the news.

Glenn Ford said he expected his son to be placed on a scholarship eventually, and what about the way he produced on the field and how coach Mike Leach gave his name undisturbed during press conferences. But the call from his son was still exhilarating, especially after the ring road to the Bulldog.

“It was a good treat,” Glenn Ford said, referring to Halloween. They gave it to him on Sunday. I think if you’re going to get a reward, and you can’t cheat or treat, give him a scholarship.”

When Christian Ford arrived as an apprentice, he tried to take on the scholarship player mentality. He felt like he belonged with the Securities and Exchange Commission, after all.

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But now that he’s met his goal of getting a scholarship, Ford will embrace his roots.

“We are still trying to adopt the same constant mindset and mindset,” his father said. “Working for whatever you get. Because his ultimate goal is to play at the highest level, which he thinks he can do. So it’s like a checkbox sort of thing. It’s great and it’s something we’ve been working towards, but keep working as if We were going, because that kind of put a chip on your shoulder. Keep playing with that chip and see where that takes us.”

When Christian Ford got the first pass of his Mississippi tenure—a 9-yard completion from Rogers—most of the defense swarmed him as he made it to the sideline. They’ve seen this production on the scout team every week.

“The defense knew who he was before he had a chance to show it to everyone,” Glenn Ford said.

Now, opposing defenses know who Christian Ford is — and what he’s capable of. After Ford received the scholarship, Polk offered his congratulations. Then give some advice.

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” Polk said. “Don’t look back.”

But if Ford looks back, he will see an arduous journey not yet complete, but filled with leaps of faith.

“He broke his tail, man,” Glenn Ford said. “He really broke his tail.”

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