Expectations are high at Gulfport — both externally and internally.
With the Admirals projected to be a Class 6A contender again this season, quarterback Cleveland Ford felt it best if he went ahead and ended his recruitment. Sunday, the senior athlete committed to Alcorn State over interest from Texas Tech, Southern Miss, South Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgetown and others.
“I just have a lot of things going on and I wanted to get it out of the way so I could focus on football and the season coming up,” Ford said. “I just felt like it was time. I didn’t want to prolong it and have them think I wasn’t as interested as I really am.”
Ford’s athleticism was on display a year ago when he passed for nearly 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns, and rushed for another 231 yards and three touchdowns.
Head coach Eddie Pierce commended Ford this offseason for progressing as a passer. Ford’s maturation showed Friday as he passed for 119 yards and a 16-yard touchdown in Gulfport’s 42-0 Shrimp Bowl victory over Long Beach.
At the next level, Ford said Alcorn hasn’t told him exactly how he fits into the Braves’ plans outside of saying he could do a little bit of everything.
“They just want me to be an athlete, a guy who can come in play offense, defense or special teams,” Ford said.
Throwing touchdowns and being “The Man” on offense is fun, but Ford is most comfortable on the defensive side of the ball.
“That's actually where I feel at home at, being aggressive. I like matching up against people's best players and shutting them down,” Ford said. “I'd prefer to play defensive back. I feel that's where I have a better chance excelling. But I’ll do anything they need me to do.”
Ford said Alcorn actually first offered him back in February. He visited the campus this summer and came away impressed with both the campus and football program, to the point where he could see himself in Lorman for four or five years.
“It was pretty good. It has a good home feeling and that's what I need,” he said. “It’s in the country, so there’s not much to get into. That’s what I need to keep me level headed.”
The Braves are coming off of back-to-back SWAC championships. Although the architect of those teams, Jay Hopson, is now at Southern Miss, Ford said he likes the direction new coach Fred McNair is taking the program.
“They've been dominating the SWAC for the past couple of years. They always find a way to win,” Ford said. “They have some great coaches. They're going to get after you to make sure you're doing what you need to, not only on football field but in classroom too.”