Ford tough: Lions' second-year cornerback reliable as Slay's replacement
Allen Park — Mike Ford helped his father’s favorite team stay undefeated over the weekend.
Next week, he’s out to take down his grandfather’s preferred squad.
When Darius Slay went out with a third-quarter hamstring injury in Philadelphia on Sunday, Ford’s No. 38 was called.
On his first play, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz went right after Ford on the left sideline, but the second-year cornerback didn’t budge. Ford actually drew a flag for offensive pass interference on Mack Hollins, which was declined as Philadelphia was forced to punt away another chance to climb back into what would be a 27-24 loss.
Cold might not be the right word for an unseasonable 80-degree day, but how does Ford get ready to get thrown right into the fire of a tough game?
“You’re on the sideline, you’re with the defense, and you’re watching. You’re seeing and you’re getting the corrections like those guys are,” Ford said. “You just always gotta be prepared to go out there and play.”
Ford, who played 31 defensive snaps after combining for two in Detroit's first two games, might be pressed into action again depending on Slay’s status for this weekend.
There, Ford’s Lions — the favored team of the late Michael Ford Sr., a Barry Sanders fanatic — against his grandfather’s Kansas City Chiefs (3-0).
Ford used to watch the Chiefs because of the familial connection and also because the Chiefs were on locally during his college days at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Undrafted out of the Football Championship Subdivision level, Ford played in seven games with the Lions last season as a rookie, starting four.
This year, Ford came into training camp with valuable special team skills and a few games in defensive backs coach Brian Stewart’s secondary in his pocket.
He beat out players such as Teez Tabor, a second-round pick in 2017, along with others like Tarvarus McFadden, Johnathan Alston, Jamar Summers, Marcus Cooper and Andre Chachere along the way.
Then, Ford worked his way past teammates on the 53-man roster like Dee Virgin, Jamal Agnew and Amani Oruwariye to be called upon for duty on Sunday.
“If something happens that we’re going to have to go out and play defense, he’s ready to go from a mental standpoint and the preparation standpoint,” said Lions coach Matt Patricia, who gave no update on Slay's status. “He works really hard at that. I think he’s long, he’s fast, he’s got some good speed and good reactionary quickness, but still learning.”
Ford credited free-agent pickups Rashaan Melvin and Justin Coleman with instilling a level of professionalism and knowledge into the defensive backs room.
“Being a guy that knows I have to be ready for any type of situation, I’m sitting there and picking those guys’ brains,” Ford said.
Like Melvin and Coleman, Ford could be opposite players such as Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins and tight end Travis Kelce on Sunday, while trying to bottle up reigning league MVP and electric quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Given his last name and the primary line of business of his employer, you’d think there might be an endorsement bonus in Ford being ready and reliable when his name is called.
“I prepare every week like I’m a starter,” Ford said. “You just keep staying prepared, being ready to go out there and make plays.”
Chiefs at Lions
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday, Ford Field, Detroit
Records: Lions 2-0-1, Chiefs 3-0
Line: Chiefs by 6
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.