Former Mountaineer Larry Ford Making Most of Second Chance - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Former Mountaineer Larry Ford Making Most of Second Chance

Photo Courtesy: Larry Ford Photo Courtesy: Larry Ford

All Larry Ford really wanted was a second chance. An opportunity to prove what he is capable of as football player – not for the fans or for his doubters, but for himself.

When the former Mountaineer defensive lineman first came to Morgantown, he brought with him high expectations as a successful junior college player with experience and results. He was thought to be the sort of athlete to immediately find a place along the line and make an impact.

But in three seasons at West Virginia University, his stat line never reached the level that anyone – especially Ford himself – anticipated it might.

"To me, I feel like my career at West Virginia probably was a bust," Ford admits bluntly. "I didn't do what everybody expected me to do coming in from JUCO, but now is my time to show what I can really do."

Clearly, he does not shy away from his poor numbers. Three seasons for WVU and Ford appeared in just 27 games, totaling 10 tackles and one sack.

Any number of factors contributed to Ford's lack of production, including the fact that he had been moved to every position on former WVU defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich's unit as well as the competition he had from teammates in a small rotation.

When he graduated, his passion for the game remained. There was no feeling sorry for himself or looking at the past with regret – Larry Ford was focused on his future. He envisioned a future where he was able to play the game he loved and play it at the high level he still believed was inside him.

There were retractors and plenty of road blocks in the way, but he remained committed to his craft.

Ford dislocated his toe when he was performing for NFL scouts at WVU's Pro Day and a short time later was again trying to make an impression on that injured toe while competing in the Probound Sports Bowl in Arkansas.

The first year out of college yielded a few opportunities, but none that really grew legs. He practiced with two Arena Football League teams – the Pittsburgh Power and the Georgia Force. He spoke with representatives in the Canadian Football League, but again, no real results.

He remained in Morgantown so that he could be near his agent, Dusty Gwinn, and maintain focus on the task he had laid out, not willing to give in to the idea that it may be too great to achieve.

"[Gwinn] wanted to keep tabs on me and make sure I was doing the right things," says Ford, who hails from South Carolina. "If I went back home, I probably wouldn't have had that motivation to do things like if I was in Morgantown."

So this year, when the Florida Tarpons called, Ford listened intently to the offer.

An expansion team in the United Indoor Football League, the Tarpons wanted to make Ford what essentially amounted to the face of the franchise. He accepted both the offer as well as the challenge of becoming the leader of an entire team that was just getting on its feet.

"I get jokes around here all the time saying that I own half the team, but that's just my mindset up here," he says. "I'm just trying to be that guy and be that leader to get us to the championship level."

The first game finally rolled around and Ford did his best to show out on the field. He finished the game, a rolling 58-35 victory over the Mississippi Hound Dogs, with three sacks.

In the days following his professional debut, Ford's phone rang. The AFL was interested, but his agent advised against making the move since that league was entering a strike. He would stay with the Tarpons and try to make an impression on representatives from the CFL and the NFL.

As he continues through this process, Ford finds motivation from his former WVU teammates. He talks with fellow lineman Scooter Berry and cornerback Kent Richardson, both of whom play arena football as well. He gets an extra push from the news that former Mountaineer tight end Will Johnson has signed with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.

He longs for the day that he will receive a contract from a team that holds its games outside in the elements, the way football was meant to be played. 

Until then, he is working for the Tarpons and doing what he can to bring them to the highest level of their league.

"Whether I finish the season here or not, I'm just trying to get us on that undefeated championship level and that would look good for me in the long run," he says.

Ford says after three games, each of which his team has won, he shows five sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble while leading the league's defensive ends in tackles.

This weekend, former WVU running back Noel Devine is expected to stop by and watch him play. Devine has a contract with the CFL, and Ford is hopeful that he will be following his buddy to those ranks.

Should he finish out the season with the Tarpons, the championship game could keep him there as late as June, which would be a fine time to make the jump to the NFL, but the more realistic goal at this point is to play in Canada, which would likely take him from Florida before the season is complete.

For now, his focus is on improving every time he steps out on the field.

"I'm just glad to be playing again," says Ford. "It feels good to sack a quarterback again. I'm back in the mix now."

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