MOBILE, Ala. – Rudy Ford knows something about detours, but he never had doubts about his destination.
Speaking at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Tuesday in preparation for the Senior Bowl, the former Auburn defensive back said he was confident that he could knock on the door of an NFL dream despite a few twists along the way. Recruited as a running back, Ford switched to defensive back as his primary area before fall camp in 2013.
Now here he was standing under a pleasant south Alabama sun, near an endpoint he always had in mind.
“Yes, sir,” Ford said, when asked if he envisioned a possible NFL career as a defensive back shortly after the position switch. “I did, because (of) hard work. And just every day, I just always came to work and tried to stay ahead of the game and always improve in the game and always keep on improving.”
That improvement has delivered results. He has experience both as a free safety and as a nickel cornerback. He missed the Tigers’ loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl with a right ankle injury, but he practiced Tuesday without any obvious physical limitations. He drew a crowd of NFL scouts after the workout, with each eager to learn more about his background.
Ford finished with 59 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 7 pass breakups this past season as part of the SEC’s ninth-best pass defense (229.2 yards per game). He recorded a season-high 10 tackles in a victory over Arkansas State on Sept. 10.
That belief in his ability? Ford wasn’t the only one in the Tigers’ locker room to carry it.
“It means he’s an athlete,” former Auburn defensive tackle Montravius Adams said of Ford’s ability to play both running back and defensive back. “He can do whatever the coach needs him to do.”
It will be interesting to see what coaches ask Ford to do at the next level, if he receives a chance to show in the NFL the same versatility he displayed at Auburn. He said his experience with the Tigers provided solid preparation for what he has lived this week in his work before the Senior Bowl.
“I’m just blessed to be here,” Ford said. “I’m just out here excited just to compete. And wherever the coaches want me to play, I’m excited to play.
“We like to go fast (at Auburn), and the (Senior Bowl coaches) like to throw different terminology at us. It has been really great. We’re just preparing, and our college coaches have done a great job.”
Ford hasn’t done a bad job himself. Despite a change in focus early in his college career, he never lost sight of his ultimate goal.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said.