Nine months after suffering a season ending knee injury, University of Hawaii defensive back Eugene Ford is back on patrol in the secondary for the Rainbow Warriors.
Ford, who went down with a torn ACL in his his right knee against Wyoming in week two of the 2020 season had two interceptions in Hawaii’s season opening victory at Fresno State.
The California native who was voted by teammates as a captain in 2020 powered through the rehabilitation process and has been working with the first group on defense through the first three practices of the training camp. According to Ford he’s been counting down the days.
“I was fired up. I was fired up in meetings. I had my cleats on, all ready. Everybody in their slides, I was ready to go, touch the field. I wasn’t trying to wait on anything. I was ready to strap my helmet on and get to going,” said Ford.
When Ford went down with the injury last season, head coach Todd Graham commented on how Ford being off the field affected more than the X’s and O’s, but his competitiveness and the respect he demands from teammates was an even greater loss. However, through the rehabilitation process which is currently just nine months removed from surgery, Ford’s determination is once again on full display.
“He has worked hard. He’s probably, in (my) 32 years he has had a top three or four rehab. Chris Chamberlain came back and played in five months and he played like six of seven years in the NFL. Eugene really worked his butt off,” said Graham.” “That’s what football is about, it’s like life. That’s what happens to you in life. I’m really proud of him and his recovery and man, I think he’s ready to go and looks great. He has got to get back to his football speed of things and all that but he’s a big part of what we’re doing.”
Despite being off the field, Ford was not away from his team. Often seen in a jersey on game days getting into huddles and leading pregame chants, Ford says the countless mental reps he took watching the defense last season has made him a better football player in 2021.
“Really just taking that step back and I took it from a different perspective. Being on the side but It also challenged me to bring more people along. It feels good to be back with the guys on the field grinding again, it kind of motivated me more being on the sideline. I’m more fired up. More vocal. That was a big challenge for me, being more vocal so learning from a different perspective actually helped the game slow down for me so it was beneficial.”
In 43 games since 2017, Ford has recorded 113 tackles and four interceptions.
The Rainbow Warriors will open the 2021 season at UCLA on August 28.