football Edit

Ford Using Fresh Start To Make Positive Impression

D.J. Ford (pictured above, number 16) got a new lease on his football life when the new regime came on board.
D.J. Ford (pictured above, number 16) got a new lease on his football life when the new regime came on board. (Jenna Miller, THI)

CHAPEL HILL – Like many of his teammates, a regime change atop North Carolina’s football program meant a new opportunity for D.J. Ford.

That happened late last November, as Mack Brown replaced Larry Fedora at the helm, and with it came a fresh start for everyone on the roster and a new scheme to learn. Now healthy and with a bit of a new lease on his football life, Ford has impressed the new staff.

“D.J. has been very impressive this spring,” Brown said. “First of all, he’s got length. He’s very tall and has good arm span, so that’s great for a defensive back. He’s very fast, he’s very smart and he’s playing really hard. He’s been hurt some in his past, so he’s another guy that’s been trying to stay out there.”

A safety, Ford is 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. He played 175 snaps in nine games last season, registering 15 tackles, two PBUs and forcing a fumble, but Ford spent much of the prior two seasons dealing with injuries.

Ironically, injuries helped him get on the field some last fall, as the Tar Heels were banged up in the secondary, but when the new staff came on board, he felt a sense of relief.

Ford after practice in April.
Ford after practice in April. (THI)

“I feel like it was a great opportunity for myself as well as everyone else,” he said. “We got a fresh start, all started from scratch, nobody was ahead of anyone else. We all just compete and push each other and are constantly getting better.”

Ford has certainly been competing. Among the names most often mentioned by teammates all spring when asked who’s performed well so far, Ford was behind Jeremiah Gemmel on defense, but that’s it.

“I feel like (I) had a pretty good spring,” Ford said. “I’ve been making sure I’ve paid attention to the small things, all the details, just finding any way to get better and work on myself whether it be keeping my pads lower, coming out of my breaks better, great angles to the ball. I’m always trying to find something to work on and I feel like it’s showing up.”

He’s learning for sure. In fact, Ford is so intent on getting better each and every day, he asked for additional critiquing, and advice, going straight to the head honcho.

Ford last October at Virginia.
Ford last October at Virginia. (Jenna Miller, THI)

“He asked me what does he need to improve,” Brown said. “(And) with his length, being so tall, he’s got to play with more leverage and tackle better in space. But he’s learning all of that, so we’ve been very, very impressed with him.”

And the Alabama native has been impressed with the Tar Heels’ new defensive scheme.

It’s made for smart, athletic guys, which best describes Ford. And it’s made for football players who want to have a blast, hit and fly around.

“It’s really fun,” Ford said. “We get to show we’re doing one thing and do something else. Everything looks the same but (is) different at the same time and we’re coming from all over the place – controlled chaos.

“It’s foreign to someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking at, it’s like trying to read Chinese or something.”

It’s not. It’s just football, but with the demands of a coaching staff raising the standard at Carolina, one that Ford is getting closer to meeting as each day passes.