Winnipeg Blue Bombers Isaac Anderson cheers on Will Ford as he scores a touchdown against the Toronto Argos during 2nd half CFL football action the at the Rogers Centre in Toronto on Friday October 19, 2012. (QMI Agency/ERNEST DOROSZUK)
WINNIPEG - TORONTO — Will Ford was grinning from ear-to-ear and how could you blame him?
A virtual unknown to most folks who have an interest in the CFL until Friday night, Ford had just rushed 10 times for 85 yards and caught two passes for 50 yards in what was his most productive night as a pro.
To top it all off, his breakout day took place in a 44-32 victory by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers over the Toronto Argonauts, a win that kept them alive for an unlikely playoff spot at 5-11.
Did we mention it happened at Rogers Centre, the same stadium where Ford thought his CFL playing days were over before they really began — suffering an ankle injury during pre-season before the Argos cut him a few days later.
“Ah man, it feels good. It’s a long story and I’m just blessed,” said Ford, whose five-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter iced the game for the Bombers. “Two years ago was my last time playing football and it was up here. I got hurt in Toronto so it felt good to be back and show off my talents.
“I just thank the coaches for giving me the opportunity and to help this team win.”
The Bombers are back in action Saturday afternoon at Ivor Wynne Stadium against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Before Friday night, Ford had primarily been used on special teams, occasionally spelling off tailback Chad Simpson. But in this game, Ford made sure he had an impact and that all of his talents were on display.
“Speed and vision man,” said Ford, who has 21 carries for 130 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games this season. “I’m trying to add stuff to (his repertoire), but you have to use what you’ve got and I was blessed with some speed.”
There’s no doubt about that, as the Argos defence found out when Ford kicked it into gear out of the backfield and got to the edge on several occasions, finishing with 135 all-purpose yards.
“Will made some great plays with his leg,” said Bomber quarterback Buck Pierce. “He can turn the corner and he’s a guy that can really be explosive. He’s definitely a feature back in this league and he’s a guy that I’m glad we have on our side.”
Simpson is glad, too.
He’s known Ford since college, when the two competed against one another. Simpson beat Ford by 13 yards to claim the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rushing title in 2007, so he knew what his backup was capable of.
“You’ve got Will Ford who no one had seen yet and has a great deal of talent,” said Simpson, who has 1,003 yards and five touchdowns in 13 games this season after rushing for 136 yards on 20 carries on Friday. “He’s a quicker guy. He’s faster than me. Not way faster, but a little faster. To get him in the game was great and it helped me a lot. I was fresh. You can’t stop Thunder and Lightning. I’m going to run hard and he’s going to run hard. You can’t prepare for that.”
When the leaves begin to change colour, the importance of having a dynamic running game only rises in the CFL and the Bombers ground attack seems to be peaking at the perfect time.
“You know what, we’ve got a great one-two punch right now,” said Bomber left tackle Glenn January. “Will Ford is an excellent young talent. He’s got a lot of skills.
“We’ve got a stable of backs and it’s fun blocking for those guys because they do it with a humble heart and they work hard. It’s easy to block for guys like that.”