CMU Football Coach Jody Ford Gets "Tough" Against Cancer
FAYETTE - Central Methodist University head football coach Jody Ford likes to run tough practices. There's a hill near Davis Stadium that Ford makes the team run from time to time. But Ford is also running up a hill of his own.
"He puts us through a lot when it comes to that hill," senior offensive lineman Bo Amos said.
"We have what's called an MT time, a mental toughness time where we just kick their butt for a few minutes and really let them have it," Ford said. "We run them hills all the time, and then as soon as we get finished running hills, they have to come out in two minute drills and they have to be able to think and focus and be able to excel. It's tough, I mean we put them through a lot of things but they're a special group of kids. They don't flinch, they like to smile back at me and say coach keep it coming, keep it coming because we are going to keep it coming. And that's what I love about this team."
"It's like 'is this guy off his rocker, out of his skull?'" red shirt junior linebacker Conner White said.
"We put them through an unbelievable off season. I mean I put these guys through hell, our coaches put them through that," Ford said.
"He really likes to make sure to push us to our limits and get the best out of everyone," junior quarterback Kaleb Borghardt said.
"You can't be a prima donna on our team, we will run you off. You will not be allowed to be here if that's the case, Ford said. "We have tough guys. Like I said, the stuff that we put our kids through, they have to be able to overcome adversity and our kids know that, especially our older kids. And our older kids, if they see a new kid come in who's not willing to deal with adversity, our older kids don't want him here."
Ford is dealing with some adversity himself. He preaches the word to his team almost every day. But it's not everyday that you hear what Ford had to say about his adversity.
"As soon as he gave the news you know it was just absolutely deafening silence you know everybody kind of stood at attention. Everybody was just kind of shocked at the time, but as soon as that happened everybody rallied together," said White.
The Central Methodist Eagles rallied together because they believe their coach can beat the adversity.
"I found out, we were on vacation in Galveston, Texas, and I realized that there was something wrong with me at that time. And just like any tough guy would you think, 'oh it will just go away, don't worry about it, whatever,'" Ford said. "And, all of a sudden a month went by and it hadn't gone away. And so we went to a doctor in Columbia and she referred us to a specialist, and what she thought might be. And the specialist did their surgery and checked me out and realized 'you know you have cancer' and it had gotten into a lymph node, it was rectal cancer."
It's a rare form of rectal cancer for someone who is under the age of 40. In fact about 90 percent of those with this type of cancer are over 50.
"At first I was kind of sad, mad because I couldn't do anything for him," Associate head coach Miguel Paredes said. "It still kind of hurts, the fact that you know I can't do stuff for him. I told him I wish I could trade places with him but you know he tells me 'don't give me any sympathy, treat me the way you would, make him laugh and stuff.' So that's what helps me be inspired, keep going every day."
Coach Paredes will switch places with Ford, on the field. But that is only when Ford is at MD Anderson in Texas receiving radiation and chemotherapy. Ford travels to Texas every week, Monday through Friday for treatment. But he will back every Saturday to coach his team on the sidelines and not in a hospital bed.
"The doctors said 'hey when we do chemo you know you're going to be tired, you're going to be doing this,' and his response to them was 'I'm making it to every game on Saturday,'" Paredes said.
Through adversity Ford said he's able to find a very positive attitude, an attitude that he said will never change, no matter what type of day he's having.
"Every day should be positive because 'yes I have cancer and 'yes I could be gone in a year or whenever,' but 'my goodness I could be gone tomorrow so why take the breath that's going in my lungs right now for granted,'" Ford said.
His coaching staff and players caught on to this contagious attitude.
"I feel sorry for cancer rather than I feel sorry for him," said Paredes.
"If there's anybody that's going to beat it, it's definitely that guy," said White. "I have no doubt that it's something that is just going to be a little speed bump for him."
"It's not going to be victorious that's for sure because he's a hard headed guy when it comes to putting his mind to something," Borghardt said. "He's going to make sure it happens no matter what."
"One thing I have control over is my attitude and my mentality and there's nothing on this planet that is going to break me," Ford said. "Put me in something bad and watch me respond to it."