Louisville football: How Marshon Ford went from walk-on to captain in two years

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - OCTOBER 05: Blanton Creque #45 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates after the winning field goal in the game against the Boston College Eagles at Cardinal Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - OCTOBER 05: Blanton Creque #45 of the Louisville Cardinals celebrates after the winning field goal in the game against the Boston College Eagles at Cardinal Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

On Marshon Ford’s emergence from overlooked prospect to Louisville football captain.

I sat down with the parents and uncle/youth coach of Louisville football‘s breakout tight end to get a better understanding of the player’s perseverance in the face of countless obstacles along his journey.

In Louisville’s 2020 season opener vs Western Kentucky, Marshon Ford hauled in one of Louisville’s three receiving touchdowns. A solid start for the recently named team captain.

“This year I (can see) 10 touchdowns,” Maurice Ford– Marshon’s Father– enlightened me regarding his early season predictions. He also elaborated on his son’s early athletic prowess.

“Marshon started playing football at 5 years old for the Middletown (Louisville) Eagles. He learned fast and was very smart,” Maurice said. “My most memorable game was when he scored the game winning touchdown against the Hikes Point Lobos to take Middletown to the city Championship at Papa John’s (Cardinal Stadium). That next season and he was offensive MVP.”

Ford, it seemed, always had a gift.

“Marshon started catching the attention of some local big-time high schools. He would get better every year. He’s a great kid on and off the field,” Maurice said.

Ford was also a multi-sport athlete. He began playing AAU basketball at age six.

“Adrian Peterson was his (favorite player). Now he likes Travis Kelce and what he’s doing. Basketball it’s the Kobe, Dame, and Lebron Show,” Maurice said.

Louisville football star was invisible on the recruiting trail

“Recruiting at (Louisville) Ballard High School was terrible. I would meet more recruiters at his away games,” Maurice said.

At the time, Ballard’s football program was going through an unprecedented coaching carousel. His uncle and youth football coach, Charles McGhee, helped to fill in the blanks.

“He had a new coach every year at Ballard, which hurt both his recruiting and his star ranking,” McGhee said.

Even with the accolades, it appeared as though the bigger names simply couldn’t establish a solid rapport with Ballard’s interchanges on the coaching staff.

“It’s bad when your kid is All-State and All-Metro on offense AND defense and the (Ballard) coach calls and says Murray State is interested in your son, and wants to offer a partial scholarship,” Maurice said. “I almost lost it.”

The family took matters into their own hands to assist Ford in his quest to be a Division I football player.

“I had to start filming his early games so he would have footage to show recruiters. I had Marshon pick 100 schools and I wrote recruitment letters to all of them with his Hudl clips and school and bio info….I still have them,” Maurice said. “We had to use our network system.”

Ford attended camps to boost his profile on the national recruiting landscape, but almost all of the coaches at said camps seemed preoccupied.

“They already had the (players) they were looking at,” McGhee said. “At many of the camps he went to, there were several highly-regarded players that he went up against and he actually outplayed them all, and it still didn’t help his status or star rating.”

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Many of the coaches in attendance coached college teams that never gave Marshon a chance.

“There were coaches that looked at him and told him he wasn’t a Division I-caliber player,” McGhee said.

This was a jaw-dropping revelation to me, only strengthening my support for Ford’s growth and prosperity.

“He has since scored touchdowns against those same schools that wouldn’t give him a shot,” McGhee said.

Love. To. See. It.

“Marshon’s really playing with a chip on his shoulder. He has earned everything, nothing given,” Maurice said.

Ford’s athletic roots run deep

From siblings to distant relatives, Marshon’s family is certainly athletically inclined- Including close relative, former Louisville football receiver, and current Miami Dolphin’s star DeVante Parker.

“Marshon’s older brother and DeVante (Parker) are first cousins. So DeVante treats Marshon like a little brother,” Maurice said.

The bloodline is strong.

“(DeVante) would workout with Marshon in getting better in his position at Ballard. Marshon works out during the off-season with his brother and DeVante. I know they talk all the time and he gives Marshon those pep talks,” Maurice said.

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Ford’s mom, Tinesha, offered some insight into how this arrangement has helped her son’s development.

“He visits DeVante on Spring Break down in Miami,” Tinesha said. “It has really been helpful to spend time with him down there. He has gotten a lot better because of it.”

A few pointers from a starting veteran NFL receiver.

“DeVante always would tell him, ‘Make sure the body is taken care of; make sure you’re paying attention to your nutrition,” McGhee said.

From walk-on to power five captain

Ford came to Louisville as a preferred walk-on, which was entirely his decision in the end. In his first season on Coach Scott Satterfield’s squad, he made his presence felt, posting 292 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns.

“If you watch that first game, he put on a blocking clinic,” Maurice said.

Satterfield and staff were impressed by Ford’s work ethic. “He worked really hard. He definitely put in the effort,” McGhee said.

Yet, Ford remained humble through his process at Louisville. “Marshon knows they have weapons and he’s just one of them,” Maurice said.

Likewise, the Ford family was equally impressed with the new coaching staff.

“All the love on that team starts with Coach Satt and his staff. I respect him so much because he leads by example. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything and he challenges each player to give their all on the team,” Maurice said.

Satterfield and staff have created a family type of atmosphere at Louisville since their arrival.

“That’s why people are turning down scholarship offers at other schools to come here,” McGhee said.

Coach Satterfield liked what he saw in Ford from the beginning.

“He gave my son a chance, and that was a long shot,” Tinesha said.

From being a long shot to becoming a full-time starter, Marshon has gone through the gauntlet to arrive at this point. Being a hometown kid, he still finds a way to rep for his city in games.

“When he scores a touchdown he’ll always say something like ‘I’m from Louisville’ or ‘5-0-2’,” Tinesha said. “After a score he puts his arm up and makes a ‘5-0-2’ with his hand.”

This was a pretty cool discovery.

“Go look at the tapes. If you look at the footage from games, you’ll see him do it,” Tinesha said.

I looked checked the tapes; his mother was right. Ford, like any other Louisvillian, loves his city.

“That’s one thing he’s very proud of,” McGhee said.

In the 2020 preseason, Ford was chosen as one of Louisville’s team captains, proving that hard work pays off.

“We always knew he would be a captain type of guy,” McGhee said. The writing has been on the wall for Marshon’s entire life.

“He’s always been a leader,” Tinesha said. “I’m very proud. Sometimes (Marshon) hosts incoming recruits on visits. If they put them with Marshon, that kid probably feels comfortable.”

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Heading into a match-up with Miami, McGhee asked Ford what the game means to him and this particular Louisville team.

“Marshon (said) ‘I want to win every game I play on our schedule just as bad as anyone on our team. Winning this game is special for all of us, since so many of my brothers on the team are from Miami, so playing against their hometown team…a win would mean the world to them’,” McGhee said.

That sums up Ford’s attitude. Though he never got the love he deserved, he defers to his teammates. A true leader, and a selfless hometown hero.