PITTSBURGH — Unless there’s a dramatic change, redshirt freshman Pitt corner Paris Ford is probably not going to be in the starting lineup when the Panthers host Albany on Sept. 2.
But don’t fret, Pitt fans, No. 12 is going to be all over the field. Literally.
Ford spent last fall playing safety, then this spring and summer working at corner. He’s been the team’s top punt returner, returning kicks and even working out as a receiver on offense.
By this point, he has at least five spots that he can contribute at, and there’s no telling where else he may find his way onto the field. That’s made Ford’s prep schedule an interesting one, but he said the Pitt coaches have gone out of their way to get him ready for his first collegiate action.
“The coaches, their doors are always open,” Ford said Wednesday. “I’ve been in and out of meetings all the time, getting extra coaching, extra knowledge. I actually talk to Quadree Henderson some times, getting some tips from him on punts and things of that nature.”
He said his offensive work at this point has been limited to “a few plays,” but if he’s needed more on offense than defense, he’s comfortable with whichever way it plays out.
“Whichever team needs me, I can get the job done,” he said. “I’m just waiting to get the ball in my hands.”
It’s been a bit of a wait for the Steel Valley alum. This time last year, he wasn’t sure whether or not he’d be academically eligible. Ford was eventually a late arrival to training camp in 2017 and ended up redshirting. He said the stress of not playing a year ago was far worse than the extra work of being a three-way player this year.
“I feel so much more free, because I was in summer school around this time, getting my job done,” he said. “But now, I’m more mature, I’m becoming a better person, and I’m free now. This is my first camp, so I feel like I’m really taking a step up.”
Ford credited the mentorship of the Pitt players throughout his first season as the reason for that maturity.
“Just being around these guys, guys like Dennis Briggs, Dane (Jackson), Avonte Maddox last year, being around them and guys of that nature, it makes you want to be like them,” Ford said.
Pitt returns two starters in the secondary in Damar Hamlin and Jackson. Phil Campbell and Briggs are battling at strong safety, while Damarri Mathis and Phillipie Motley are the favorites to emerge as a starter at corner.
Ford has mostly played corner during camp, but head coach Pat Narduzzi said that he could move back to safety if a need arose.
“Like I said, whatever the team needs me to do, that’s what I’m going to do,” Ford said. “If they need me at center, I’ll play center.”
For the most part, he’s just excited to get back on the field, wherever it may be.
“Can’t wait. Stay tuned.”