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February 5, 2014

Longhorns snag a d-tackle commitment

For Poona Ford, it all came down to relationships.

Ford, a defensive tackle prospect out of Hilton Head, South Carolina, committed to the Texas Longhorns on Wednesday morning, picking Texas over a lengthy list of other scholarship offers.

It was all about the relationships.

A one-time Louisville Cardinals commitment, Ford had built a strong bond with then Louisville head coach and now Texas head coach Charlie Strong, in addition to assistant coach Brian Jean-Mary, who followed Strong to Texas. The presence of those two on the UT staff helped the Longhorns win out over Ford's other finalists, Missouri and Purdue.

"I think at the end of the day the biggest thing for him was it was a staff that he had been committed to for eight or nine months," said Hilton Head head coach B.J. Payne. "And it was a staff, especially the head coach, that he wanted to play football for but also wanted to develop as a man and learn under.

"It was mentioned to him by a family member if that's the staff you were sold on for nine months, what's the difference now except it's a more prominent school and a better opportunity? What would change that?

"And there's no other way of saying it, it's the University of Texas. It's a top-five program in the country and a head coach that he absolutely admires and he wanted to play for and develop under."

Payne said all three of Ford's finalists did a terrific job of stressing academics as much or more as they did football, a pitch that carried a lot of weight with Ford and his family. The focus on academics and life after football kept Texas, Missouri and Purdue all in the running, but in the end it was the comfort level with the Longhorn coaches the helped UT win out.

"His grandma and his dad wanted him to play for Charlie Strong. They had built a rapport with him and with Jean-Mary, and Jean-Mary did a great job recruiting him. They just connected on a different level," Payne said. "Other schools are upset over the fact that he didn't choose them, some are upset that they weren't in his final three.

"The bottom line, any time he called those guys, even when he called coach Strong while he was at Louisville or Texas, coach Strong picked up that phone. Every time he called him, probably over 20 times, each one of those conversations went for over a half hour. Other coaches went a minute and a half, maybe twice. It happens. Some schools just out-recruit other schools for kids.

"There's a trust factor. His grandma said, 'I feel like Jean-Mary is part of the family.' I think that was the end all. His grandma and dad wanted him to go to Louisville, and then wanted him to go to Texas. That's absolutely what they wanted."

In Ford, Texas secures a commitment that has a lengthy list of offers that includes schools like South Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Tennessee. As a junior, Ford recorded 154 tackles, 44 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. As a senior he recorded roughly 135 tackles, 28 TFL and 8 sacks.

"We do move him out to end in a couple packages because he can stand up and play end," Payne said. "That's what everyone loves about him, especially (Texas coach (Charlie) Strong. He's a big guy that can run."

Ford is the Longhorns' 22nd commitment of the 2014 recruiting class and UT's only defensive tackle commitment at this time. The Longhorns are also in line for a possible commitment from Chris Nelson later this afternoon.


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