Trace Ford came into Oklahoma State as a freshman and immediately stood out — something first-year players rarely do in Mike Gundy’s program.
Ford has looks of the next best OSU defensive end and a potential NFL talent, but that wasn’t always the case.
“No, football was probably his last, said Desirae Ford, Trace Ford’s mother. “When he was a little kid, like the 10-12 age, I remember him saying something like, ‘When I grow up I’m going to the MLB or the NBA.’ The NFL was never mentioned. He always knew he wanted to do big things, but he never mentioned football. It just happened to be the thing he’s really good at, but he didn’t know it until he was a junior in high school.”
But then football became the sport he wanted to pursue his junior year.
Was it the right decision? His teammates think so.
“He’s pretty up there,” OSU defensive lineman Cameron Murray said. “I’ve been around some really good ones though, but he’s up there. I feel like if he keeps working, he’s going to be really good. Just take it one day at a time. I feel like he’s going to be really good in the future.”
Ford, a graduate of Edmond Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Oklahoma, played baseball and football in high school. However, Ford didn’t start on the football team until halfway through his junior year, and even when he did, it wasn’t clear he would be a highly touted recruit.
“I wouldn’t say immediately no,” said Chris Rose, Santa Fe defensive coordinator. “I always thought he would have an opportunity at some point, probably after his redshirt year, to come in and really contribute at Oklahoma State. (I) knew it was there, he's still pretty young. Trace could have been a senior a year ago, this past football season for (Edmond Santa Fe).
"He got there with a determination to show people what he could do.”
However, Ford did have an immediate impact for the Cowboys.
He was the only true freshman to start a game for OSU in 2019. Fordstarted the last six games and played in all 13 games. He was an honorable mention All-Big 12 and was the 2019 OSU Russell Okung award winner for an outstanding newcomer.
“We’re going to continue to create defenses for him to match up in the best way possible so he can be a factor in affecting the quarterback because he’s just a natural,” said OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Oklahoma State has a deep history of talented defensive ends playing at the next level. The Cowboys have had 26 defensive linemen selected in the NFL draft including three in the last four years. Jordan Brailford is the most recent OSU defensive lineman to make the move to the NFL.
Murray said that if Ford keeps working hard, he could rank pretty high on the podium of great defensive ends to come out of OSU. Ford’s quickness and speed are unique, traits that are hard to teach.
“I think he could be as good as anybody,” Knowles said. “Because like I said, his unique talent is short space quickness. He can get from point A to point B quicker than anyone I’ve seen in a long time.”