Oklahoma State defensive end Trace Ford was a three-star prospect out of Edmond Santa Fe High School who gained confidence after getting his first career start at Iowa State last season.
The OSU defense forced three interceptions and a punt in Iowa State’s final four processions, which included the go-ahead points when linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez returned an interception for a touchdown.
Safety Tre Sterling said the Iowa State game boosted the confidence of the entire defense, including Ford. Ford tallied three tackles and one quarterback hurry in the 34-27 win over the Cyclones. He grabbed the first interception of his career against Kansas two games later.
“I think after that first start at Iowa State, I started getting more confidence,” Ford said. “I lacked the confidence last year, but once I started playing more and more, I started getting more confidence and saying, ‘Hey, I’m just as good as these guys out here.’ ”
Ford played in all 13 games for OSU last season and was the only true freshman to log any starts after starting in the final six games. He finished the year with 29 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and five pass deflections. His nine quarterback hurries rank second on OSU’s all-time list for a season.
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has high expectations for Ford in his sophomore year.
“The kid is a physical specimen with unbelievable short-space quickness and a great first step,” Knowles said. “I think he’s a real All-American prospect. He’s got a great future and he’s bigger and stronger and he’s starting to get a little mean out there. He’s playing a lot now, so he’s starting to get a little mean and having a competitive attitude, so the sky is the limit for him.”
The pandemic created challenges for athletes finding ways to train during the offseason, but Ford still managed to bulk up. His listed weight of 248 pounds is 21 pounds heavier than last year. Ford started eating more, making sure to have three or four meals a day. Chicken with rice and broccoli was his go-to meal for lunch and dinner, and the weight room was his sanctuary.
“I was making sure to take every chance I could in the weight room and get bigger and better and faster and stronger,” Ford said. “On the weekends I worked out, so I was just never really giving myself a break, and I think that’s where I got myself here today.”
Ford had a setback after testing positive for COVID-19 this summer. He is in good health now but said he experienced many of the symptoms that come with the virus.
“I had the symptoms — no taste, the smell, the headaches, the sweat, the chills,” Ford said. “It was pretty tough, but I got over it. Here I am now, so it’s all good.”
Ford said he lost some of the weight he gained and got a little out of shape because of the virus.
“I definitely lost a lot of weight over corona,” Ford said about two weeks ago. “I’m weighing like 240 right now, so I’ve only lost about eight pounds, but I definitely got more out of shape. It’s been harder to breathe and stuff. I’m slowly getting back in better, better shape every day. But, yeah, corona definitely took a toll on my body, for sure. I got a little weaker, but I’ll be back. I’ll be fine.”
Ford has had a couple of weeks to continue getting back in shape since he last spoke with the media on Aug. 26. He was given an additional week to prepare when the season opener against Tulsa was moved from Saturday to Sept. 19. Although COVID-19 created a minor setback in his conditioning, Ford is ready to showcase the growth he has made over the offseason.
“I think I’m just maturing a lot over the offseason,” Ford said. “I’ve learned to like film and watch it and learn what tackles do and how to make myself better.”
Frank Bonner II