Ford’s first impression of Arkansas wasn’t good
Too many hills, bedbugs and a stubborn cold.
The combination of these things had Luke Ford — a highly touted 2018 tight end recruit from Carterville, Ill. — ready to leave Arkansas last Sunday night and forget about the possibility of committing to the Razorbacks.
“When we first got there, I didn’t like it,” Ford said in a recent interview with Dave McKenzie of ESPN’s 103.5.
“There were a lot of hills and stuff and I wasn’t a big fan. We stayed there for two nights. The first night at our hotel, the coaches told us to stay at this hotel and I’m not going to say the name of hotel because I don’t want anything to happen with that. But we stay at this hotel and I’m laying in bed and this bed bug crawls up on me. I’m like, ‘Get outta here. Get outta here with these bedbugs.’ So, we ended up leaving that hotel, we went to a different hotel. But that was already a bad start for me, so I was like, ‘Oh man, this is not the place.’ ”
This coming after Ford had questioned taking the trip altogether largely due to an “unbelievable” visit to Illinois last weekend and feeling a bit under the weather.
Fortunately for Arkansas, Ford followed through with his two-day visit. He and his parents, Tim and Lisa, had dinner Sunday night with members of the coaching staff and the 2017 early enrollees.
“That was kind of a big deal that they had set up and catered the meal, so we were like, ‘We probably outta go check it out,'” Tim said.
The initial thought was for Luke to just “suck it up,” take some cold medicine and get through the trip. It was his chance to at least check out the SEC before likely making his commitment official with Illinois. But on Sunday night, the Fords began to reconsider their thoughts on the Hogs.
“When we got there, it was just spectacular,” Tim said. “Lisa and one of the coaches’ wives hit it off like they’d been best friends for 20 years, and Luke fit in with the (2017 signees).”
After seeing the facilities and studying film with the coaching staff Monday, Luke left Fayetteville ready to become a Razorback. He called the coaches Tuesday via FaceTime on his iPhone to inform them he was making his pledge to them. He chose the Razorbacks from such offers as Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma.
“They just blew me away,” Ford said. “I had a great time. I loved watching film with the coaches. They explained how they could use me in their offense. It started off rough and rocky, but after Monday, they just blew me away.”
Illinois nearly sealed the deal
The Fords spent last Friday and Saturday visiting Illinois and left with the Illini at the top of Luke’s list.
“The Illinois visit was unbelievable,” Luke said. “I had a great time there. The coaches were all good. Coach (Lovie) Smith … real guy, genuine, humble man.”
His recruitment nearly ended then with a commitment to his home state’s flagship university. His parents were nearly certain Luke had made up his mind.
“I thought, ‘Do we even need to make this trip to Fayetteville?'” Lisa said. “We were so impressed with the Illini.”
Tim added: “We left thinking the Illini is it, we’re done, we don’t have to actually go anywhere anymore, we’re done traveling.”
If Luke had committed to the Illini, there’s little doubt Arkansas would’ve continued pursuing him just in case. After all, he’s been at the top of the Razorbacks’ tight end wish list for several months.
However, it would have been an uphill battle going forward and potentially forced them to focus more attention elsewhere. Having such a quick turnaround between visits and plans already made for an Arkansas trip certainly paid off in a big way for the Hogs.
“I went to Arkansas and, I don’t know, it just clicked,” Luke said. “You know when you feel something just clicks? And I clicked with all the coaches there. They have amazing facilities. I just felt that was the right place for me.”
The next Hunter Henry?
One of the highlights of Ford’s visit was the chance to go over film with Arkansas’ coaching staff. They showed him clips of former standout tight ends who had recently suited up for the Hogs.
Ford was even compared to maybe the best of those former players — 2015 Mackey Award winner Hunter Henry.
“They walked through their film and my film and how they could use me,” Ford said. “They said I reminded them of Hunter Henry in the way I played and the way I handled myself. That was a huge compliment.”
Miss a previous edition? Find every SEC Country daily Arkansas Razorbacks recruiting notebook right here.