Isaiah Ford might not be playing football if not for a heart-to-heart with his coach following his freshman season in high school.
Ford, a standout in both football and basketball, wanted to transfer schools to play hoops with AAU teammate Grayson Allen, which would mean quitting football entirely. Ford thought that might be best after a frustrating season in the Wing-T offense that was a staple at Trinity Christian in Jacksonville, Florida. So he walked into the coaches office to sit down and talk with Trinity Christian football coach Verlon Dorminey.
“Really, Grayson was Isaiah’s sidekick,” said Dorminey, recalling the meeting. “It wasn’t the Grayson Allen show; it was the Isaiah Ford show. So he came in the office and we had a conversation with him and told him, ‘This is where you belong. You’re the guy here, you’re a great leader and a great kid.' We knew how special he was. He had what it took in order to play at the next level.”
Dorminey convinced Ford to stay.
“It ended up being the best decision of my life,” Ford said.
While Allen went on to play basketball at Duke, Ford is now on the verge of making history at Virginia Tech playing football. He set the school single-season record for receptions (63) and touchdown receptions (10) this season en route to All-ACC honors from the media and coaches. His 937 yards receiving puts him 25 yards away from the school record Andre Davis set in 1999 and 63 yards away from becoming the first Virginia Tech receiver to officially reach 1,000 yards. Davis did hit 1,000 yards in 1999 after the bowl game, but bowl stats didn’t count until 2002.
Ford discovered there were no 1,000-yard receivers in Virginia Tech history after arriving on campus.
“When I heard the news, I knew that was one of the goals I wanted to accomplish at least before I leave,” Ford said.
He will have that chance in the Camping World Independence Bowl against Tulsa on Dec. 26 in Frank Beamer's final game at Virginia Tech.
“I think it would be really cool to do,” Ford said. “Especially this being Coach Beamer’s last year and out of 29 seasons he’s been here, no one’s ever done that, I think that would be pretty special. At the same time, my main focus is winning the game. If the yards come through the game, then I’m glad about it. But if they don’t, there’s always next year.”
When next year does roll around, Ford is sure to be in the upper echelon of receivers; not only in the ACC, but in the country. His goal is to add even more muscle to his 188-pound frame, something Dorminey chuckled about when told recently. Dorminey laughs about that because Ford weighed about 115 pounds when he showed up for football practice the summer before ninth grade and did not look like somebody who could play college football in any way.
But he slowly added on weight and played at about 130 his freshman year. After Ford decided to stay at Trinity Christian, Dorminey decided it was time to change the offense. He scrapped the Wing-T and installed the spread.
“I could have been stubborn and said, ‘No, we’re going to run what I’ve always run, but that’s not the case,’” Dorminey said. “We had the opportunity to showcase Isaiah and we did, so that made it easier for him, too, that we were going to throw the ball more and give him more of an opportunity to be a factor in ball games.”
Ford became a rising star in recruiting, and initially committed to Louisville. But after a visit to Virginia Tech and a subsequent coaching staff change with the Cardinals, Ford decided to sign with the Hokies. He started as a true freshman and led the team with 56 receptions for 709 yards and six touchdowns. In the offseason, he gained about 15 pounds and got his body fat down to 4 percent. He also decided to give up his first love, basketball, despite being assured he could do both.
There was simply no way Ford had the time for both sports.
“Giving that up was one of the toughest things I had to do, but it was for the better,” Ford said.
He can still be found playing basketball though, taking part in pickup games with his teammates throughout the offseason. But before those games resume, Ford has a few final goals to check off his football list.