Before Ray Childress clobbered big-city prices, the former NFL pro bowler clobbered opposing quarterbacks.
But in a twist of irony, Childress’ son turned out to be a quarterback. And now, that son is the quarterback at West Virginia.
A week after getting the surprise start, redshirt freshman Ford Childress will try to get the West Virginia offense humming again this weekend in a key nonconference battle against Maryland in Baltimore.
“My dad has given me great insight through the years,” Ford Childress said. “It’s helped me a lot. It’s given me a step up on everyone else.”
Now Childress has a step up on West Virginia’s quarterback competition. For good, perhaps.
In his college debut last week against Georgia State, Childress passed for 359 yards, three touchdowns and completed 61 percent of his passes. He also jump-started a West Virginia offense that had been dormant through the first two weeks of the season.
"I thought he did good," said Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen. "He stood in there and didn't get rattled.”
In two games with Childress on the sidelines, West Virginia looked rattled offensively.
In the opener against William & Mary, the Mountaineers scored just once in the first half, and had to scramble in the fourth quarter to escape with a win. The following week, West Virginia squandered a tremendous effort from its defense, and fell at Oklahoma, 16-7, prompting Holgorsen to suggest he would be replacing Paul Millard at quarterback.
Most everyone assumed that Florida State transfer Clint Trickett would get the nod. But after watching Childress deliver a series of strong practices through the week, Holgorsen elected to roll the dice with Childress, who finished third in the quarterback competition during the preseason.
“After they reopened the quarterback battle, I thought to myself, I need to do everything in my power to take it,” said Childress, a former 4-star recruit who signed with West Virginia out of Houston Kinkaid High School, even though Texas tried to get him to flip to them.
“I had two great days of practice and was able to earn the spot.”
Against Georgia State, Childress showed no signs he would be giving that spot up, either.
The Mountaineers got off to another slow start on offense and led just 20-7 early in the fourth quarter. But that’s when Childress engineered back-to-back touchdown drives -- the second capped with a 23-yard scoring strike to Daikiel Shorts -- which helped West Virginia pulled away, 41-7.
“Ford really stepped up,” said running back Dreamius Smith. “He’s made everybody believe in him.”
Ray Childress knows well the importance of a quarterback who can make his team believe in him. As a defensive end with the Houston Oilers, he played with one of the great quarterbacks in NFL history in Warren Moon.
“His best characteristic was work ethic,” Ray Childress said of Moon, who, in another twist of irony, took the Oilers starting job in 1984 from Oliver Luck, now West Virginia’s athletic director.
“The consistency on how Warren prepared himself, and how he prepared to play. That showed leadership.”
Ford Childress recalls his dad’s TV commercials far better than he remembers him playing football. Ray Childress retired from the NFL when his son was four years old and gained fame again running auto dealerships in Hempstead, Texas, where he declared through TV ads to “clobber big-city prices” (Ford Childress said his first name had nothing to do with his dad selling Fords).
But Ray Childress has been passing along Moon's lessons about a quarterback leading a team to his son.
“People get enamored with speed or arm strength, but look at the last 25 Super Bowl champions or the last 25 NCAA champions 00 all those teams had quarterbacks who were leaders,” Ray Childress said. “When the quarterback instills confidence in his teammates, they play better than they thought they were capable of playing. It’s the best characteristic you can have.”
As Smith pointed out, Ford Childress has been instilling confidence in Morgantown. And this weekend, he has a big opportunity to keep the Mountaineers believing.
“He’s a leader on and off the field,” Smith said. “So, we’re going to keep leaning on Ford to get us big plays -- and wins.”