The Oakland Raiders explosive wide receiver/return man participated in The Fast Life’s “Need for Speed” series discussing his time at Clemson as an NCAA sprint champion as well as his rookie season with the Silver and Black.
“I love being out there in Oakland. The fans are really into it,” says Ford who knows, “It just means something to be able to put on that silver and black. Just all the history that the organization brings, to be able to go out there and represent it well. I couldn’t ask to be in a better situation.”
Long known for recruiting speed at wide receiver position, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has assembled an extensive lineage of speed over the decades including names such as Willie Gault, Sam Grady, James Jett, Alexander Wright, Alvis Whitted, and Tim Brown.
“Yeah, I talked to Al [Davis] quite a few times, he said ‘I remind him of Cliff Branch’,” said Ford, the latest in the long line of prototypical converted track sprinter wide receivers who have worn the silver and black, who adds, “Cliff Branch even says it himself, so if that’s what they say, then that’s it.”
Ford, a NCAA National Indoor Champion while at Clemson, explains, “I went undefeated in the 60m and I kept that streak going until outdoor season and had to pull up due to a hamstring in the finals of the 100m.”
Now starting in his second pro season, ironically Ford found himself inactive for weeks two and three due to a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener against Denver. Ford recalls, “That’s where I actually got my first catch” in a 59-14 blowout win over the AFC West rival Broncos last season.
“Those are the games that you actually want to play in,” exuberates Ford who also counts the Chargers and Chiefs amongst divisional rivals. “When we play the Chargers we know we are going to get a hard fought game. Another rivalry with the Chiefs. It’s a highly anticipated game in both organizations. We get real fired up for both of them.”
The Raiders managed a perfect 6 - 0 record in the division last season, but the failure to advance to the playoffs led to the surprising dismissal of head coach Tom Cable and the hiring then offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. “Nobody expected [Cable] to go especially after sweeping our division, even though we didn’t go to the playoffs, a shocked Ford reveals. “When Al found out I was upset about it , [he] wanted to make sure I was alright and I just talked to him about it.” Prior to the NFL Lock-out Ford did manage to have a conversation with Jackson and said, “He just asked me how I thought my season went and what he expects next year.”
And Hue Jackson clearly has high expectations and trust in the 2010 4th round draft selection who he plans to “turn loose” as a wide receiver estimating he may see 75 to 80 targets this season. “We’re going to make it happen next year,” said Ford, “and I am all for it just because I know the type of person that Hue Jackson is, I’m going to be right there behind him to support him.”
Ford’s play from last year has certainly garnered those high expectations as the rookie posted 6 receptions for 148 yards and returned a 94-yard kickoff for a touchdown in week nine earning Pepsi Rookie of the Week honors. “The coaches were trusting me and kept trying to give me the ball and every time they did I was rewarding them and that something that you want to show your coaches so they have trust in you. Go out there and make those plays at a clutch moment,” says Ford.
Ford was clutch in the 23-20 overtime win against the Chiefs and his fellow XPE Sports training partner cornerback Brandon Flowers. “I was dead tired first off,” reveals Ford. “Brandon was right up underneath me and Jason kind of threw it behind me a little bit and I just kept my eyes on the ball and it was kind of right where Brandon was; he leaned back and I just reached to break it up and I ended up snatching it away from him.”
Ford’s 2010 “combine best” 40 yard speed certainly has the league on notice, but for former track star, who recently won the Men’s Super 60m Challenge at the 2011 Millrose Games, Houston Texans #12 Jacoby Jones, Ford replies “I got him,” when asked if would win a 60m race against Jones.