By joining the Jacksonville Jaguars through NFL free agency, Rudy Ford became teammates again with Daniel Thomas.
Daniel was like my little brother in Auburn, Ford said at his introductory press conference in Jacksonville on Monday. He was a freshman, I was a senior, so just being able to reconnect is always great. He just entered the competition last year. It is awesome. I’ve been in the league for a few years than him, so as an older man I know what it’s like sometimes when you’re around just someone, familiar faces and all.
Jacksonville’s 2020 performance didn’t stop Ford from signing with the Jaguars. Jacksonville won their first game of the season, with the remaining 15. In January, the Jaguars hired Urban Meyer as their head coach.
Just the chance to just be a part of something, big change, great, Ford saidI just feel the culture. They want to change the culture here and are just happy to be a part of something else.
Ford said Jacksonville reminded him of Auburn when he arrived on the Plains. In 2012, the Tigers set a 3-9 record. But in Fords inaugural season in 2013, Auburn made it to the BCS national championship game in his first season under Gus Malzahn.
I have a good feeling Ford said about signing with Jacksonville. Just the energy and the vibes here. I feel like everything is on the rise, so that’s why. It really was a no-brainer for me. It kind of reminded me when I got out of high school and chose college where I wanted to go. I was lucky to have many different SEC schools. But about the same reason.
Auburn, we had that real down year before, just before I came out. And then Coach Malzhan’s first year, one more change. Just excitement. I got to the national championship that year, so it’s always great things. But yeah, that’s kind of the main reason, and, you know, I just want to be a part of something good.
Ford and Thomas have more in common than their alma mater. Both are former Alabama prep stars Ford at New Hope High School and Thomas at Lee High School in Montgomery. Both play safety. Both made their mark on special teams early on in the NFL. And both were injured last season.
Running back Dare Ogunbowale led Jacksonville last season with nine special team tackles. Ford had 10 in just eight games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020.
Due to injuries, Ford missed eight of the eleven games between the second and fourteenth games of the season. Ford took the field for 46 defensive snaps and 139 special teams in 2020 and 125 defensive snaps and 806 special teams plays in four seasons.
You gotta have the relentless effort mindset, Ford saidBasically like my way of thinking if there is, how can I be the best at what I’m going to do? And always be where my feet are first. I just take the role that I have been given, and how can I make the most of this opportunity.
Thomas blocked a kick and handed it back for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers on October 25.
After that, Thomas became a bigger part of Jacksonville’s defense. The rookie played 33 defensive snaps in the first seven games, then had 128 in the next three and made his first two NFL starts.
Thomas returned his first NFL interception 53 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 22, but he also sustained an arm injury in that game that caused him to miss the last six games of the season.
The Jaguars return starting with free safety Jarrod Wilson and signed Rayshawn Jenkins, the Los Angeles Chargers who started strong safety for the past two seasons, into free agency last week.
Ford declined to talk about what his role would be for the 2021 Jaguars.
The most important thing is to come and work, work very hard, Ford said, and then everyone gets to see it.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter atArk AMarkG1
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