PITTSBURGH — Ironically, one of the first practice drills of the 2019 season for Pitt redshirt sophomore Paris Ford had him backpedaling.
It’s fitting because Ford, after spending one season as a reserve cornerback, is moving backward — from corner back into the middle of the field at safety, where he feels he belonged all the time.
“It feels real good to be back at my position,” Ford said after practice on Wednesday. “That’s what I was recruited for, but the team needed me at corner, so that’s what I did for the team, but I’m real happy to be back at safety.”
Ford, a four-star prospect out of Steel Valley High School, has had to patiently wait his turn after redshirting as a freshman in 2017 and playing in nine games as a reserve in 2018.
That taste of playing time, combined with the move back to his more natural positions, has Ford excited for the start of the season already.
“I can’t wait, man,” Ford said. “I’ve been dreaming it. I feel like I’ve been a chained dog, but right now, I’m ready to rage out.”
Ford said that he’s been spending extra time in the film room with starting field safety Damar Hamlin in order to become a better student of then game. Hamlin has been impressed so far.
“I’m helping him 100 percent,” Hamlin said. “We even meet at night time, he comes over my house for like an hour, two hours, talking about football, talking about formations.”
Ford said that’s all a part of maturing as a person, and not just as a football player, through his first two years of college.
“I’m starting to mature,” he said. “I feel like college teaches you how to be man, turn a boy to a man, and I feel like I’m making that step right now.”
Head coach Pat Narduzzi has also seen that maturation process, and citied a recent of example of Ford going above and beyond in the classroom.
“We’ve got two week blocks for study hall. Forget football, if you’re don’t have discipline or you’re not mature down here (on the practice field), you’re not going to be mature up there (on campus),” Narduzzi said. “He got two extra hours of study hall. That shows maturity right there.”
All that’s left now is for Ford to transfer the extra work onto the football field in 2019. Though he’s playing at a position where he’s more comfortable, it’s still not going to be easy for Ford to fight through the competition and onto the playing field.
Damar Hamlin will return to start at one safety spot — he said Wednesday that he can play either — and Ford is one of four players vying for playing time at safety, along with redshirt senior Jazzee Stocker and redshirt juniors Therran Coleman and Bricen Garner.