Colleges attracted to poise of 2014 QB Ford


MECHANICSBURG, Pa. -- Andrew Ford (Camp Hill, Pa./Cedar Cliff) stuffed his fingers inside his blue hand-warmer and stared across the field. He didn't smile when his team was leading, didn't frown when it trailed.

The ESPN Watch List quarterback just stood by himself, 10 yards from his teammates, and looked casual. If it wasn't for the helmet and shoulder pads, the relaxed junior could've been mistaken for a teenager waiting at the mall, his hands inside his jeans pockets.

"That's his demeanor: He's in total control, and he's got the right temperament to be a big-time quarterback," said Cedar Cliff coach Jim Cantafio. "You'll never see him get too excited or get too down. He keeps everything in the proper perspective and consistently produces."

Ford sometimes jogged over to a coach and chatted about defensive soft spots or game plans. He clapped in the third quarter, faintly yelling "Let's go, let's go" -- which could be heard only by the white jerseys surrounding him. The stoic Ford said he's always thinking ahead, always focused on the next play, and he isn't a fan of yucking it up with friends.

He could do that after the game. During the contest? He wants to watch everything. When his defense takes the field, he tries to spot trends with the opposing offense. If he makes a mistake, he wants time to replay it over in his head.

"That's just how I am," Ford said. "I've always kind of been flat-lined when it comes to playing. There's definitely emotions you play with, but I don't think the negative ones come out. I just try to stay as positive as I can -- that's the kind of leader I am."

When his teammate, Adam Breneman, ESPN's No. 1-rated tight end, walked over to boast about his halftime stats -- 12-of-15 passing, 123 yards, 2 touchdowns -- Ford just waved him off.

"He told me, 'Who cares?' " Breneman said. "That's just the kind of kid he is. He plays for something bigger."

Colleges have already caught on to Ford and his level-headed play. He's been invited to numerous games -- Rutgers, Pitt, Penn State, Virginia, Maryland -- and plans to attend games at Michigan and Notre Dame.

He holds no favorites and hasn't yet received an offer, but Cantafio and Ford aren't concerned. Ford realizes there's a few more steps to recruiting a quarterback -- but at least one teammate still doesn't understand the holdup.

"I'm very surprised he doesn't have 30 offers by now," Breneman said. "I met a lot of players at camps and everything, and he's one of the top-3 guys I've been around as a football player. It's surprising, but he's going to get some offers at the end of the day."

Ford didn't wait long Friday to add another reel to his highlight tape, which is destined to attract more recruiting attention in the offseason. Student fans watched from the metal bleachers, looking past the fog of their frozen breath, to see Ford toss a perfect 32-yard spiral -- in stride -- into the end zone.

He saw a cornerback bite on the potential screen and then launched the pass between two defenders for a touchdown. Cantafio patted Ford on the helmet and later said that play wasn't special; that was just Ford.

"I've seen that all year," the coach said. "He's made some incredible throws this year, and that was a beautiful one. But he has the ability to do that. Nothing amazes me when he does it because he wants to be the best quarterback in the state of Pennsylvania, and I pressure him all the time."

Cantafio's lack of surprise might have something to do with his and Ford's history. Back in 2009, when Ford was entering eighth grade, Ford's parents drove him to a clinic hosted by the coach. Ford picked up three or four footballs and launched them all downfield.

That's all Cantafio needed to see. The animated coach strolled up to Ford and told him he had "it" -- the perfect throwing motion. He looked like a young Chad Henne, a Michigan star whom Cantafio coached.

"It was always my dream to maybe take it to that next level, but I never thought that dream could come true," Ford said. "Watching Zach Mills, I thought that could maybe be me one day. But when he pulled me aside that day and compared me to Chad Henne, that was surreal. That day I realized that this is maybe what God's calling me to do."

The only time Ford seemed caught off-guard Friday was when a smiling offensive lineman, Josh Emond, strolled up to smack the quarterback's shoulder pads. "That's an offensive drive, baby!" he yelled after Ford led the team on a 99-yard drive.

Ford managed a slight grin -- and then went right back to plugging his fingers inside that hand-warmer and staring at the field.

"So far," the quarterback said, "this has really been an awesome ride."