by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
Jacoby Ford ran track at Clemson, reaching All-American status in the 100 meters and national championship status in the 60 meters. In prep school he was timed under 4.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Despite his many accomplishments on the track, Ford will tell you that, first and foremost, he’s a football player. The dynamic receiver/returner/occasional passer took some time between workouts to discuss his skills, his family, and his hopes for a future in the NFL.
I’m down in Boca Raton, Florida, just training.
Training for a guy like you seems like it might be different (from) someone who’s trying to improve his 40 time. What are the types of things that you’re doing now?
I’m doing a lot of things, like I’m doing a lot of upper body to get stronger for the 225 (bench rep) test. And then I’m doing a bunch of explosive stuff for my legs, just to be more explosive for when I do end up running the 40. And I’m working on a lot of receiver drills and cone drills, too, for the combine.
Being a track guy, how do you think that helps you? How far ahead do you think you are of others who haven’t done the same kind of speed work you have?
I think it might put me ahead some, but then on the other hand, I think it’s just running. It’s just running to me: it’s just something that I don’t think I have to worry about as far as other people (do), because a lot of people probably stress over the 40. I don’t think (anybody) should ever stress over that. I think they should just relax and go out there and run, because running just should be second nature to them.
Speaking of being second nature, as a track guy, how has that helped you in football? Was it something where you were running first and started football, or did football come first?
No, football always came first. I only started running track my senior year of high school, and then I ran while I was at Clemson. Football’s always been my first love.
Something I’ve always wanted to ask someone who’s done both: there’s a lot of talk about Usain Bolt trying out for the NFL. Do you think that would be a good idea?
I mean, if he can play football, then yeah, it would be a great idea. It’s all in terms of how well he could probably carry his pads and take the physical abuse of football.
In your freshman year, you were more of a return guy. Was it tough to become a receiver over the years, or was that something you were always looking to do?
Oh, it was something I was always looking to do. That’s what I came in for, but I knew my freshman year, going behind Chansi Stuckey – who’s with the Browns now – I knew I would be behind him. So it gave me a year just to watch him mature, just watch him my whole freshman year and then just try to take over the role that he had, and try to become a complete college receiver. I mean, it took a lot of work to do, to adjust to the college level, but I ended up taking on that mission really well.
And what are some of the tougher teams that you faced in your career?
Boston College. Florida State. Alabama. Virginia Tech.
Sounds like the whole ACC. (Note: plus Alabama, of course.)
Yeah, pretty much. It was never just an easy game. Everybody always brought their A-game every time they played us, so that’s how we just took every game. We came prepared and ready to play every time.
I saw that you passed for a touchdown last year, is that right?
Yes, I did.
Is that something – could you talk a little bit about that? Is that something that you always wanted to do?
Yeah, that’s something I always wanted to do, because we always used to have those plays open like that in practice, we just never called them. So we ended up calling it. I guess I’d been throwing the ball pretty well this past year. You know, I used to just mess around, I’d be throwing it pretty good, and we ended up calling it at the right time. I hit Xavier Dye wide open on a go route. Actually I had two pass attempts this year, and both of them were to Xavier.
So if you had to score a touchdown – absolutely had to – would you want to return a kick, return a punt, run for it or catch a pass?
Either way works for me. As long as I get in that end zone somehow and put six points up on the board. That’s a thrill for me any time.
Clemson seems like a crazy football school. Is that true? Is that something where the perception plays out on campus?
Yeah, they definitely take pride in their football program. It’s always a lot of high expectations there. We just have to not let that get to our heads and just try to go out there and focus and play our game. But those people, they definitely do love their Clemson Tigers up there. The fan base is just amazing and I loved every bit of it when I was there.
Could you talk a little bit about going from Florida to Fork Union (Military Academy) and then to Clemson?
When I was at Fork Union, I had to be in uniform and take orders from kids younger than me. We got a chance to play football there, too. They taught a lot of discipline while I was there, and it kind of like honed me in on where I came from and how appreciative I should have been, or need to be. Just for being out instead of being in the school where it’s just all boys and you couldn’t go anywhere. Coming to Clemson, it wasn’t on my mind at all coming out of the prep school. So I took a visit there and I just kind of fell in love with the place and the players and the fan base there. I kind of just felt comfortable and at home. And then my brother was in Atlanta, he was only an hour away, so that played a big part in my decision, too.
What were some of the factors that went into you deciding to go to Fork Union after high school?
I wanted to get my SAT scores up to match my GPA so I could be eligible to be a Division I athlete.
And at what point at Clemson did you start thinking that you could play at the next level?
Oh, it’s always been a dream to get there, but my first thing I wanted to do at Clemson was make sure I get my degree no matter what, and know football will just take care of itself afterwards. Now I just feel blessed with that opportunity to go play at the next level.
I read that you timed under a 4.2 in the 40. Is that true?
Yes, I have.
Is there any way you can describe what that’s like to someone who can’t do that?
Honestly, no. Because, I mean, sometimes I don’t really feel like I’m running that fast. I guess just because of the way my stride is. I mean, everyone else was like, “Man, you (were) moving,” or, “You were really fast,” but to me, I’m out there just running, just enjoying my time every time I do get a chance to go out there and run. When the time comes up, I don’t get too excited or get really emotional. I’m just like, “Okay,” and I just keep going after that.
What are the differences between straight-ahead speed and quickness? What are the different types of things you’re working on? Or do you think you need to work on that?
No, because I’ve had that all my life. I’ve always been quick, I just have the mentality now, when I catch the ball I just want to get north and south instead of going east and west.
So what kind of numbers are you expecting to show this spring in testing?
The best that I have. I’m just trying to go out there and make an impression on my coaches and on the whole NFL… Just go out there and try to show my skills so they can hone in on them and see good things from me.
Do you have any specific numbers in mind?
Nah, I don’t want to jinx myself. I’d rather just go out there and make a statement whenever I do get out there and start running around and doing everything. I definitely want to be in the top three in everything.
I think that’s probably a good idea. How is it going now? What’s your schedule like?
Our schedule is – well, now since we’re about to get ready for the combine – our trainer makes sure we wake up about 7 a.m., makes sure we get something to eat, in our system. We work out at about 10 until 11:15, 11:30. Then we take a break and we eat lunch at 1:30 at Duffy’s. Then after lunch we go right back to the facility. We work out again. And, you know, if you want to come in later and do Pilates or extra stretching, you can come back in until probably around 6, between 6 and 7, and get a lot of extra work in. So it’s a full day, every day. Monday is probably the longest day, though. That’s when you have a big group and everybody’s together. All the other days you have little groups, and my group goes at 10 o’clock.
While all this is going on, is it just crazy? Is it what you expected? Are you nervous at all?
No, I’m not nervous right now. I probably might get a little (case of) butterflies at the combine that first day or something. But other than that, you know, I’ve just been down enjoying my time with all the guys that I’ve been working out with, making new friends, just trying to enjoy it as much as I can, especially being back home in Florida.
How far away are you from your hometown?
Oh, I’m only about 20 minutes from home.
Do you get home much?
Yes, sir, I do. I try to get home as much as possible to get a good home-cooked meal from my mom, and see them as much as possible since it’s been very limited my last four years at Clemson.
Jacoby, that’s excellent… I really look forward to seeing what you do at the end of the month.
Okay, take care.
Alright. You, too.
Email Chris Warner at [email protected]