COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Phil Ford is one enthusiastic young man with Brigham Young University on his mind — constantly.
The mammoth offensive line prospect took to Twitter late on Saturday night and hasn’t let up since. His message is pretty simple: He couldn’t be more excited about joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and wants to play for the football program that represents his new church.
Ford is a 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive lineman who is currently part of Western Iowa’s football program. Upon signing with Kansas out of high school, Ford failed to qualify academically and was forced to go the junior college route.
Ford redshirted last season for the Reivers, but was able to establish a relationship with a teammate that led to his current desire to play at BYU.
“One of my teammates, Stetzon Bair, is from Idaho and is Mormon and he got me real interested in the church along with some other Mormons that I got to know,” said Ford. “I went to church with them and I just felt the spirit so strong that I wanted to get baptized.”
Ford put himself on the fast track toward membership, meeting with the missionaries, reading the Book of Mormon before ultimately getting baptized the week before Easter.
Ford came to know about BYU through many conversations with the members in his home ward — many of whom are BYU graduates. Through those conversations, Ford developed his current burning desire to play for the Cougar football program.
That desire was only reinforced when he got in touch with former Cougar and current Jayhawk Jake Heaps.
“Justin McCay, who I was teammates with in high school, got to know Jake Heaps while they were being recruited and he’s now at Kansas playing,” Ford said. “He let me know that Jake was Mormon and went to BYU, so I started texting with Jake asking him questions about BYU.”
One could assume Heaps wouldn’t offer glowing recommendations about BYU given the circumstances of his transfer, but those assumptions would be wrong.
“Jake told me that BYU was a great place for an LDS kid and someone who wanted to be surrounded by Church influences,” said Ford. “He said that it’s the thing he misses most about BYU and how that made it so tough for him to transfer. It was great talking to him and he really got me excited about the possibility of playing for BYU. We didn’t talk hardly at all about football, but just about all the other stuff that makes BYU such a great place.”
Not everyone can play for BYU, obviously. Although there are thousands of LDS athletes, who hold the same desires as Ford, BYU can’t come close to accommodating the grand majority of them with scholarships.
Fortunately for Ford, however, he’s good. He received attention from almost all the Big 12 programs coming out of Bishop Miege High in Shawnee, Kan., and received offers from both Minnesota and Kansas.
While many BYU fans were taking note of Ford’s desire to join the program via Twitter, a certain person that could actually make that a reality also became aware of his situation.
“Their running backs coach (Joe DuPaix) got in touch with me and I called him up at one in the morning,” said Ford. “He took my call and we seriously talked for about an hour. It was great talking with him and he shared a lot about the program and told me that they were interested.”
Ford shared with DuPaix, who is also the recruiting co-ordinator at BYU, his desire to serve an LDS mission. DuPaix gladly shared stories of his own mission experience. They spoke about the unique aspects of the BYU football program and perhaps most importantly, loosely set up a time when DuPaix could fly out and meet with him face-to-face.
“He doesn’t know when exactly he’ll come out, but he’s going to come out here real soon — probably next week,” said Ford.
DuPaix even gave Ford a reading assignment — encouraging him to read the story of the 2000 stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon.
“He told me that the team takes the same attitude as the 2000 stripling warriors and that they try to emulate what they’re about,” said Ford. “I read it and it was an awesome story and it got me even more excited to be a part of BYU’s program.”
Ford will now wait for BYU coaches to further evaluate him and determine whether to offer him a scholarship. Coach Bronco Mendenhall will likely follow up with him this week with oflfensive line coach Mark Weber doing most of the athletic evaluations.
Ford is on track to graduate from Western Iowa in December and would like to join BYU's team in January of 2013 — giving himself the opportunity to participate in spring practices.
“I’m just excited that my dream could be close to being reality,” said Ford. “I can’t wait to meet with the coaches and I’m hopeful that they’ll offer me a scholarship. I want to go to BYU more than anything, I want to represent the Church and I want to serve a mission for the Church as soon as I graduate.”
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BrandonCGurney
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company