New back travels far ... and fast

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

The scouting report on William Ford, running back, reads: "Rarely off his feet, shows strength in his lower body. Short, yet explosive ball-carrier who consistently runs north-south."

For the record he doesn't waste much time going south-north either.

At midnight Tuesday, Ford had no team, no prospects and was sitting at his home in Greenfield, South Carolina. Less than 36 hours later he was an Argonaut, signed, dressed and working out for a starting running-back job.

"I was kind of disappointed that I didn't get a phone call and get the opportunity that I thought I deserved (in the NFL)," said Ford, who led South Carolina State to back-to-back undefeated seasons and set the school's all-time rushing record with 4,650 yards.

"But then I hurt my knee (torn ligaments) and they shied away."

The Argonauts believed they were set at the position with Steven Turner, DiCori Birmingham and Canadians such as Bryan Crawford and Jeff Johnson, plus Andre Durie, who is also worked as a receiver.

But Turner blew out an Achilles and Birmingham retired Tuesday.

General manager Adam Rita and director of player personnel Mike Hagen went to the football rolodex.

"I guess they had me on their radar," said Ford.

"I got the call about (midnight Tuesday). They said they needed me overnight ... I'm probably about two hours from the Charlotte airport and had to be there at 5 a.m."

Then it got complicated. He didn't have a passport. So he flew to Buffalo where Hagen picked him up and drove him to Toronto.

"I got here about 6 p.m. (Wednesday). Went to a meeting at 8 o'clock, stayed 'til about 10 or 11 and looked at the playbook and tried to get on track -- and now I'm out here. It is a bit rocky but I'm just happy to get the opportunity to get on the field again."

He admitted he was a "little rusty" in his first day of Canadian football. All the motion is a bit dizzying.

But he was smart enough to slap a ball out of bounds during a kicking drill -- something a lot of experienced imports still often forget is not only an option but downright smart.

"It just surprised me that a guy who just got off the plane would know enough to do that instead of trying to fall on it," said coach Jim Barker.

Players and fans on the sidelines cheered.

Barker chuckled.

"Hagen picked him up in Buffalo and said, 'Hey, we had a long drive. We talked a lot.' "

Ford's injury prevented him from participating in the NFL combines but he does have a 4.42 clocking in the 40 and he looks like a prototypical CFL back.

Reports say he's not particularly elusive but he is aggressive. Said Barker: "He's a very quick guy. Very fast. He reminds me of Kenton Keith in terms of his skill set and being a smaller guy. He seems to learn fairly well. We'll see how he does the next few days."


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