Marques Ford wasn’t thinking about junior college when he left Rutgers in December.
But a phone call from Jones County (Miss.) Junior College coach Steve Buckley put the concept squarely on the mind of the former Scarlet Knights defensive end.
“He told me he was doing something new, and I wanted to be part of it,” Ford said.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound Ford, a Florida native, came to Jones County with tempered expectations. Originally a Tennessee commit before landing at Rutgers, he wasn’t sure about the exposure he would gain but took a leap of faith.
He found it well worth it. Ford’s offer list includes a handful of SEC schools, along with Cal and Syracuse. He credits Buckley.
“He’s a great person and a great coach,” Ford said. “He got me out there more than I had expected. We are a great team now. I love the experience so far.”
Ford puts Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Texas A&M as his top three schools of interest. The proximity to home and playing in the SEC matters, but he still has to take a closer look at all suitors.
“Looking at them generally, I would say they are all pretty good schools with good reps,” he said. “I haven’t taken my visits, so I can’t really go in depth yet.”
Ford plays with two Ole Miss commits at Jones County. Both are recruiting him to be a Rebel. Ford hears often from fellow defensive end Markel Winters, who lines up on the opposite side of the line and hopes to do so again in Oxford, and from cornerback Javien Hamilton.
“I always tell him it’s a dream,” Winters said. “We are the best defensive end duo in the nation in junior college. I try to tell him let’s go to Ole Miss and make that happen to be the best defensive end duo in the SEC.”
Ford and Winters are roommates at Jones County, giving Winters ample time to recruit Ford. But Winters’ best pitch to Ford actually has nothing to do with football.
“His best pitch is there’s a barbershop in the facilities,” Ford said. “He says that a lot. It’s kinda getting me thinking, like maybe I can get an edge up after practice.”
Ford will enroll in January at his school of choice. He also is hearing from Louisville, West Virginia and Iowa State, among others.
He remains focused on making the most of an opportunity he wasn’t even considering less than a year ago.
“Personally, I just want to get as good as I can be before I head out. I want to get in there and play right away,” Ford said. “As a team, I want to make sure we build something here. Make sure I leave something and the rest of us leave something before we leave in December.”