Bringing a Never Say Quit Attitude to the Auburn Defense
The Auburn football player started fall camp with high hopes after being chosen the Defensive MVP of A-Day, being named to three pre-season all-SEC teams, and being named to the watch list for the Bednarik Award, (an honor which goes to the nation’s top defensive player).
Then in the second practice, he suffered a knee injury that threatened to derail his plans for a great senior season. It was especially disheartening after the many ups and downs he had experienced since signing with the Tigers back in 2009.
A four star recruit and the No. 7 player on Alabama’s SuperPrep team, Dee Ford had experienced the high’s of the 2010 National Championship and the low’s of last year’s nine loss season. He had been sidelined for all but three games in 2011 due to a back injury. Yet through hard work he persevered and came back to lead the defense in 2012 with six sacks; despite playing with a abdominal injury most of the season.
He had spent part of an offseason working with former NFL lineman and pass rush specialist Chuck Smith to improve his pass rush technique. He considered leaving early for the NFL but Gus Malzahn and his love for Auburn kept him on The Plains. Now healthy, he was poised to lead his team back to relevance in the SEC, when injury struck again.
It was just one more obstacle for Dee to overcome to achieve his goal as a leader for Auburn’s Defense. Some would have used the injury as an excuse for not being able to play. But excuses are not part of Dee Ford‘s persona. He believes in hard work as the solvent of problems.
If there is one thing that has been a constant in Dee Ford’s life, it’s been hard work. His high school coach said he hadn’t seen many players with the work ethic of a Dee Ford. He was known to workout before school and after his team practices at St Clair High in Odenville. And his work ethic around the Auburn athletic complex has set a high example for his teammates.
Defensive End LaDarius Owens said Ford has taught him that, “Dedication takes more than just what people see. You’ve got to go the extra mile. You can’t just do what is required or what someone is making you do.”
Ford has always gone that extra mile. He’s always worked hard to get better. When he suffered the knee injury he did what came natural … he worked harder.
In the third game of the season, he returned to play against Mississippi State. He admitted he was rusty saying, ” I don’t feel like I played at a level the team needs.” Yet Dee came up with two big quarterback hurries and provided speed off the edge like hadn’t been seen in the Tigers first two games.
Gus Malzahn said he could see a difference in the play of the rest of the defense when Ford was on the field. It’s the belief in hard work that has driven Dee to become the respected leader of an Auburn defense desperate to make amends for it’s 2012 shortcomings.
It was his first quarter hurry that forced the Bulldogs quarterback to make an incomplete throw which forced a field goal attempt that sailed wide. Even rusty, he made six tackles including three on the Dogs final drive. He was in on the tackle of Dak Prescott that forced the Dogs last punt, leading to Auburn’s 88 yard game winning drive.
His return has come at an opportune time as the Auburn ‘D’ will be facing their biggest challenge this Saturday when they go up against the SEC’s leading passing efficiency quarterback in LSU’s Zach Mettenberger as well as one of the best offensive lines in the conference.
Playing the purple Tigers in Death Valley may well be Auburn’s toughest test all year; a fact that makes it even more important to have Ford back.
Because Dee knows what it takes to be a winner – hard work and a never say quit attitude. Both team characteristics which he is determined to help bring back to The Plains.