2020 NFL Draft: Marques Ford, an HBCU prospect to know

    Former four-star recruit Marques Ford has the opportunity to capitalize on another chance and showcase his NFL talent in his final season at Bethune Cookman.

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    Redemption stories come a dime-a-dozen for players on the road to the NFL. Bethune Cookman’s Marques Ford has been through plenty of ups and downs. For every player that makes it to the league, so many more give up. But Ford has his eyes laser-focused on the quarterback, and the NFL.

    Changing The Culture

    When you think of Florida High School football, Gibsonton isn’t a town that strikes a chord. Located 10 miles south of Tampa, Gibsonton doesn’t have an abundance of notable athletes. Through four seasons of dominance at East Bay High, Marques Ford changed the culture single-handed. From just one offer from Marshall in February of his senior year to nearly 50 before graduation, Ford was a force to be reckoned with.

    The four-star initially committed to Tennessee, before changing his mind, heading to Rutgers. Ford was the highest-rated commit for Rutgers in the 2015 class. Ford’s resume landed him a spot in the 2015 Under Armour All-American game.

    Dismissal from Rutgers

    Before Marques Ford got to suit up for the Scarlet Knights, he was already heading out of the door. Ford and punter John Bowers were charged with sexual assault in the fall of 2015, and immediately dismissed from the school. While nothing immediately came from the charges for Ford and Bowers, they both had to start over. Ford committed to Jones County Junior College in Mississippi. As is often the case with junior colleges, the school is a revolving door for players looking for a second chance.

    Many are looking to prove themselves to Division-I programs that they are worth another shot. Others are just trying to keep their football dreams alive. When players transfer after a season to the SEC and ACC schools, another potential redemption story comes in right behind them.

    Another Chance

    In his freshman season with Jones County, Ford recorded 17 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. The dual-threat defensive end/outside linebacker once again had Division I schools in a frenzy. With offers from Cal, West Virginia and Ole Miss to name a few, Ford ultimately chose to commit to East Carolina.

    Ford committed in November, but by the time January came, ECU decided to rescind the offer. Ford was ECU’s highest-rated commit in years, but the Rutgers sexual assault came back to haunt him. Charges filed against Ford and Bowers caused ECU to take away their offer.

    Home Sweet Home

    HBCU’s were once a first-stop for top talent for black players before integration created the migration of talent to major Division I schools. Over the last 30 years, HBCU talent has become somewhat overlooked due to the shift. In other instances, HBCU’s have been a place of redemption for NFL-worthy talent. Upon leaving Jones County, Ford committed to Bethune Cookman in 2017. Despite being in Daytona Beach, two hours from Gibsonton, Ford was home.

    It was a fresh start in the MEAC, where defensive studs were getting plenty of chances at the next level. Delaware State’s Rodney Gunter was selected in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cardinals, and South Carolina State’s Ja’Von Hargrave went in 2016 to the Steelers, to name a few. Ford made his impact felt immediately at BCU, starting all 11 games with 32 tackles and eight tackles for loss. Ford’s 5.5 sacks were a team-best.

    The 2018 season was a leap for the redshirt junior, making the BoxToRow All-American Team and All-MEAC team. Ford finished with 42 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss, and his 8.5 sacks were second-best in the MEAC behind current Buffalo Bills defensive end Darryl Johnson.

    The Year Ahead

    HERO Sports selected Marques Ford as a 2019 Preseason All-American. With the abundance of HBCU talent making NFL rosters and showcasing their talent, he’ll have plenty of eyes on him. No game will be more critical for Ford than September 14, when BCU travels to face the University of Miami. The Hurricanes are the favorite, but we’ve seen HBCU players solidify their draft status with strong performances against powerhouses. The lengthy edge rusher has the athleticism and speed to stick as an outside linebacker and the strength to remain a strong-side defensive end.

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