PITTSBURGH — Paris Ford has blossomed into one of the top safeties in college football in his third season with the Pitt football program.
Ford redshirted his freshman year and was mainly used as a reserve cornerback last year in his second year with the team. In 2019, his dream of being an impact player for Pitt came to fruition.
Through Week 7, Ford has tallied 51 tackles, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and returning one of the interceptions for a touchdown. Ford was named ACC defensive back of the week, after his performance in Pitt’s win at Duke in Week 6.
Despite his quality play on the field, Ford isn’t taking anything for granted with the way he got to this position at Pitt in the first place.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Ford said of playing at Pitt. “Just being a Pittsburgh kid, and playing for my hometown — I couldn’t ask for (anything) more.”
Ford grew up in Pittsburgh and was a standout at near by Steel Valley high school.
“When I used to see LeSean McCoy and guys like Johnathan Baldwin, (who were) guys form (this area) — I was just thinking, ‘Maybe I can be one of those guys’,” Ford said.
Now that Ford is at Pitt and is one of the main guys on one a top defense in the country, he is still trying to remain the same kid who grew up as a fan of those Pitt legends.
“I’m still just being Paris Ford — that’s all I can be,” Ford said.
One of his position coaches, Archie Collins, has some praise for the dynamic that Ford brings to Pitt’s defense.
“He’s getting better and better, each week,” Collins said. “It’s been fun watching him mature and fun watching him play the game of football.”
Collins thinks that Ford and his abilities have what it takes to be a really good football player, even at the next level.
“Sky’s the limit (for his future),” Collins said. “It’s basically on him — how much he wants to get better and how much time he wants to spend in the film room — which he has done an incredible job doing that.”
Even though Ford hadn’t seen the playing time he might have wanted too last year, he always tried to stay ready for his chance to make a difference for this defense.
“I’ve always been ready,” Ford said. “Now, I’m just finally starting to heat up — I guess you could say.”
Ford who had played some at cornerback in previous years, moved strictly to the safety position in the spring and hasn’t really looked back.
1️⃣2️⃣ total tackles
1️⃣ return for a TD
— Pitt Football (@Pitt_FB) October 6, 2019
“He’s always been a playmaker — ever since I’ve been here,” Collins said. “The more he learns about what his job responsibility is, the more and more he will continue to make plays.”
“Him and (Damar) Hamlin do a great job with each other,” Collins said. “They keep each other going every day in practice, during the games and on the sideline. Dane Jackson does a great job with Paris too — They’re (Hamlin and Jackson) pushing him and he’s accepting the push.”
Ford knows the impact that Hamlin and Jackson have had on his success this season.
“The past two years, when I was just sitting out, those guys always kept me under their wing,” Ford said. “They told me to look at the bright side — It just feels so good to be playing with those guys.”
Collins says, that he has a hard time comparing Ford to anyone that he has ever coached before, because of the way that Ford is able to react to things on the football field.
“Paris (Ford) has one of the most unbelievable instincts I’ve ever seen coaching,” Collins said. “It’s tough to match that (with any other player) — He’s a different guy, as far as stuff that he feels during the game and sees — Even during practice.”
“He’s got a high ceiling,” Collins said. “It’s going to be unbelievable to see what kind of player that he’s going to become in the future.”
Ford himself credit’s his abilities on the field to his film preparation.
“It’s a lot of film and knowing what the opponent likes to do,” Ford said of his instincts. “I guess it’s just having a knack for the ball and executing the best that I can.”
“I’m not satisfied,” Ford said about his play this season. “I haven’t done anything yet — But it’s definitely fun to be back on the field.”
“It’s going to be up this week,” Ford said.
Pitt’s ‘Turnover Hoop’ has gotten some use over the past few weeks but Ford made it known that he wants to be able to get a crack at it on Saturday against Miami — who originated the whole idea a few years back of rewarding themselves after they force a turnover.
“That would be something crazy (forcing a turnover against Miami),” Ford said. “We just kind of feed off of each other’s energy (when we get a turnover).”
Ford was still upset with the fact that he had dropped an interception last week at Syracuse. … He took it with a grin but knows that he should make that play every time.
“Man, it was hard to watch,” Ford said. But hopefully I can get one this week — So we can bring the hoop back out.”
The Pitt Panthers (5-2, 2-1) will host the Miami Hurricanes (3-4, 1-3) on Saturday at Heinz Field.
Paris Ford will be looking to show off his special skill set in front of his own hometown, of Pittsburgh, PA.
“(We are) going to be up this week — (that’s) for sure,” Ford said.