NORMAN, Okla. -- Classes resume for the spring semester at the University of Oklahoma Monday, but on Friday OU freshman running back Keith Ford actually went back to school before returning to Norman.
A graduate of Cypress Ranch High School in Cypress, Texas, the Sooners’ emerging rushing threat took time to visit with students in his hometown before concluding his brief winter break following Oklahoma’s 45-31 win in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Ford visited Yeager Elementary School Friday to encourage, motivate and answer questions for students in pre-K through fifth grade. Naturally, he showed up at the school sporting his championship hat from the Sugar Bowl, while proudly wearing his OU Football gear.
Of course, it was no coincidence that Ford happened to pick this particular school in the state of Texas to speak to young students. Keith’s mother, Mary Ford, teaches pre-K students at Yeager Elementary.
Yeager principal Susan Brenz said the visit coincided with “Yeager University,” an initiative to help prepare students for college. Each Yeager classroom is decorated in a different college’s colors and logos to generate excitement about the future. Ford first paid a visit to fourth-grade students in Lacey Thibodeaux’s University of Oklahoma-themed classroom.
“My dad always taught me to do my work,” Ford told the students. “Being at OU made me realize you have to sacrifice a lot. You have to train yourself before you get to college to be on time, do all the work and study for tests.”
Ford answered various questions from the students including, “What’s your favorite touchdown dance?” He answered, “I just look up in the stands and point at my Mom.”
Ford said he enjoyed the time spent mentoring the Yeager students.
“I was there once in my life,” he said. “I’m just giving back, telling them the things they have to do and the sacrifices they need to make to be successful.”
Brenz said the students were drawn to Ford while he spoke to them.
“You can definitely see the respect,” she said. “He’s a true role model with the way he engaged them. He helped them understand that he has made mistakes too, but he knew how to turn around and fix them. His emphasis on hard work was exactly what our students needed to hear—in the classroom and on the field.”
Ford played in 10 games during his freshman season at Oklahoma, rushing for 134 yards on 23 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown, including three carries for 15 yards in the Sugar Bowl.
With the OU backfield losing its four primary ball carriers from 2013, Ford figures to be a key figure in the Sooners’ rushing attack in 2014 and a great example of perseverance for young students everywhere.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Joel Weckerly of the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District for the photos and information on Ford’s visit to Yeager Elementary.