Today’s exclusive 2016 NFL Draft prospect interview is with former Akron University safety Bre’ Ford.
About Bre’ Ford
Bre’ grew up in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. He is the youngest of four children and he attended Bethel Park High School. Bre’ was a running back in high school and is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,653 yards and also hold the school record for touchdowns with 54. He also made the First-Team All-Conference and Third-Team All-State.
In 2011 Bre’ attended Akron University where he made a positional change to safety; he played football for four seasons for the Akron Zips in the Mid-American conference of the NCAA Division I.
In his four seasons, Bre’ played in 38 games and racked up 105 total tackles, three interceptions, and five forced fumbles. Arguably his best game for the Zips was the University of Pittsburgh in 2014 against where he had 11 tackles and one forced fumble.
Paul Frances (VAVEL): Bre’, I’d like to thank you on behalf of myself and VAVEL.com for giving up your time to take part in this interview today.
Bre’: Thanks for having me and taking time out. I really appreciate it.
VAVEL: When and how did you first start playing football?
Bre’: It really started in the back yard playing with my cousins and a couple of buddies that were around the same age as me. We all grew up in the same neighborhood. We had a park behind where we used to live that we all went to play football mostly every day, well any chance we got. That’s where it started for me; it’s where I learned the game. Backyard football to start with then I started playing with pads on at around seven, that’s when it all started for me.
VAVEL: Growing up as a kid, who were some of the players in the NFL that you looked up to and admired?
Bre’: I used to always watch NFL Greatest Moments with Ed Sabol and then his son Steve Sabol as a kid and they always had all the great players on the show. The ones that stood out for me when I was young though were players like Ray Lewis, Reggie White, and Ed Reed on defense and guys like Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Gayle Sayers who I used to emulate my game on, on offense. When I was a little older there was Reggie Bush and LaDainian Tomlinson who were two great backs and I also loved watching the late Sean Taylor, I wanted to be like Sean and bring his type of physicality to the game.
VAVEL: Coming out of high school you were a very productive promising running back. What made you change position to safety and how did you find the transition?
Bre’: I was a 1000-yard rushing, 20-plus touchdowns a year running back coming into college. When I came to the University of Akron where they had a lack of depth at safety and they had seen my film from high school where I had played some defense too as I used to play both ways. The biggest transition was changing my focus to solely play on the defensive side of the ball. I came to Akron thinking I was going to be an offensive player. I had some learning curves; the biggest one for me was that when I played as a running back I was very aggressive so I had to learn to be patient as a defensive back. Once I had refocused and made some adjustments I found it easier to read offenses and make plays on the defense. I was one of the top running backs and every recruiting conversation was about me being an offensive player in college so coming to Akron and playing defense kind of threw me off a little but I didn’t want to sit out, I just wanted to be on the field and play football. I just wanted to help my team out in any way I could.
VAVEL: Does being a former offensive player and knowing how an offense works, give you an advantage when you’re playing on the defensive side of the ball?
Bre’: It gives me a huge advantage especially against the run game. When I am reading an opposing offense as a defensive player it’s kind of like when I used to run with the ball, I see the holes quicker and can anticipate the plays. I have an idea of where the opposing running back may be heading. I can often anticipate and beat the back to the hole.
VAVEL: What has been your greatest accomplishment at Akron University?
Bre’: I am currently still at school and I finish after this semester and have one class in the summer. My biggest accomplishment off the field is going to be when I gain my degree as I never thought I would have made it this far in school and be in a position to graduate. It will change my life and put me on a different platform away from football. On the field, is to have been able to play for four seasons helping my team out and making plays. Also to be a part of a group of players that helped turn the Akron football program around. We went from a 1-11 losing team to playing in the team’s second ever Bowl game (2015 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl).
VAVEL: How has your time as a Zip prepared you for the NFL?
Bre’: My time has prepared my tremendously. First off, by our coaching staff. They came in, in my sophomore year. Coach Terry Bowden and his staff brought in a different mindset to this program. They all helped us to reach new heights that we have never touched before. We got to play against some big-time colleges like Ohio State University, Penn State University, the University of Tennessee and the University of South Florida all of which had a lot of players go to play in the NFL. I played against NFL talent in college and I played well against them. I have no doubt that I will go to the next level and excel.
VAVEL: Evaluating you as a player, what are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
Bre’: As a player I feel my strengths are my physicality especially at the point of attack whether it’s a block or a tackle also I’m versatile and can play down in the box in run support or in the secondary in zone or man coverage. A weakness of mine is that sometimes I can over pursue the ball, so I need to refocus and take better angles on the field.
VAVEL: What do you feel is the most underrated part of your game?
Bre’: The most underrated part of my game is that teams don’t know what I can do when I get the ball in my hands. I used to be an offensive player with good numbers and I scored many touchdowns. If I get that ball in my hands I’m trying to score a TD, I can change a game.
VAVEL: What do you feel sets you apart from other safeties?
Bre’: My cut loose attitude. I try to bring my all and sell out on every play. I give every effort to get the job done and I will do whatever it takes. I will sacrifice my body for the good of the team. Whatever stage of the game it is I’m giving 100% and leaving it all on the field. I don’t care if I’m getting carried off, I’m giving all I’ve got.
VAVEL: Using one word, how would you describe your style of play?
VAVEL: Are you training at the moment? Is there a particular aspect of your game that you're trying to work on?
Bre’: Yes I’m training right now. In the time leading up to my pro day I was working on speed and trying to hone in on getting the numbers that NFL teams are looking for but now I’m just staying in football shape and preparing for a season.
VAVEL: Are there any NFL players (past or present) that you study, model your game after, or feel you draw comparisons to?
Bre’: Ed Reed I one, I liked him a lot because he wasn’t that big size-wise as a player but he showed that the game can be played from your heart and it’s all about effort. He gave 100% on every down and the whole world seen the results he had. Another was Sean Taylor, he was just so physical, he had a “Can’t lose” attitude and brought that on every play. Lastly, Ray Lewis, he has been one of the biggest inspirations to me. I have really tried to learn as much as I can from Ray and I have watched a lot of film on him and love the way he carries himself.
VAVEL: Have you been able to reach out to veterans, current or former players for advice?
Bre’: Yes I have. One of my best friends and old college roommates is Justin March who plays for the Kansas City Chiefs. I talk to him on a weekly basis, asking him any questions or advice he can give me. He says just keep working hard and be ready when your name is called. He’s also told me about what teams would be looking for in the business side of things too. That has been a big help, he’s doing it right now and went through this experience last year.
VAVEL: What can an NFL team and its fans expect from Bre’ Ford? What are you bringing to the next level?
Bre’: I’m bringing a winning attitude and full effort. I won’t complain, I will do whatever job I am asked to do. If a team needed me to switch back to the offense I really believe I can do that and play at a high level. I will play on defense, offense and special teams if needed. I am bringing my all.
VAVEL: Are there certain NFL teams that you feel you are a good fit for?
Bre’: Growing up in Pennsylvania I’ve always loved the Pittsburgh Steelers and have learned how to play physical from watching their defense over the years but not just the Steelers but all of the teams in the AFC North. They play smashmouth football; they run the ball well and hit you hard of defense. I know the league is leaning towards the pass more but its how I learned to play football. I could play and fit in with any of those teams but I can play on any team in the NFL, I’m a quick learner and will contribute to any team.
VAVEL: What can we catch you doing when you are away from the field?
Bre’: You can catch me spending time with my girlfriend, family, and friends. I have a couple of nieces and nephews that I love spending time with. Other than that I’m in classes or at the gym. I spend a lot of time with my girlfriend, my friends, my football family and my family; it’s really all I do.
VAVEL: In your eyes, who is the best safety in the NFL today?
Bre’: In today’s game, it has to be Kam Chancellor. He’s good in all aspects of the game especially his physicality. He makes a statement when he makes a tackle. He makes an offensive player think twice about going up to catch a high ball in case he hits you out of the game. He’s strong in the box against the run too, making running backs hesitate in case of taking a big hit. He brings a lot of positive things to the Seattle Seahawks defense. You can see when he’s not playing, it’s a different defense. Kam is a game changer.
VAVEL: Finally Bre’ who has been the biggest inspiration in your life and career so far?
Bre’: It is my mother. She had four kids by the time she was 24 but was still able to gain her bachelor’s degree and her masters degree whilst being a full-time mom. She was young and sacrificed her time to not only give us her love but to better herself academically. I really look up to her because I know what she did and knowing that gives me the strength to overcome any obstacle put in my way. She’s the reason I have made it this far and why I’m going to continue to go further.
VAVEL: Bre’ once again I’d like to thank you for taking part in this interview today; it’s been great getting to know you. Good luck for the future.
Bre’: I just want to thank you for giving me your time and giving me the chance to tell part of my story. Thanks for the opportunity today.
Bre’ Ford is a very aggressive safety that comes downhill looking for work in run support. He is very strong and can withstand contact from a blocker and stay in the play. Bre’ is a very good tackler and is always around the ball making plays.
In coverage, he is instinctive and responsive and trusts his eyes. He’s always looking for the ball and trying to take the ball away rather than just break up the pass. Bre’ has a high ceiling and is always willing to listen and learn.
What really sets Bre’ apart from others is his attitude, it’s impressive. He has a great character on and off the field and presents himself very well.
Bre’ could be a late round steal for any NFL team that’s willing to make the call.