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OU football: Cody Ford's path to potential first-round pick shaped by grandfather

NORMAN — Cody Ford has transformed his most detectable flaw into his most coveted trait. Scouting reports compiled on him repeat the same words and phrases — nasty, mauler, mean streak — as if there are no other descriptors to choose from.

Sometimes Ford’s fiery temperament was punished in his junior year at Oklahoma. The right tackle earned unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Texas Tech and Kansas last fall, yet that side of Ford, only seen on the field, factored in his emergence as one of the best offensive lineman in college football.

Thursday night he’ll likely walk onto a Nashville stage as a first-round pick in the NFL draft.

“He’s getting game-time ready,” his mom, Leah Ford, said on the eve of the draft. “He has a stone cold face on.”

Game-time Cody Ford is not at all like the regular version.

“I know where the edge is, and I know I definitely crossed it,” Ford said after he was penalized in the Texas Tech game. “I know every play I take is aggressive in between the whistle. Stopping at the edge is something I definitely need to work on.”

Robbie Martin can’t quite explain Ford’s football nature. It doesn’t align with the kid teachers and classmates adored at Pineville High School. And it’s certainly not in the water of his hometown. Martin coaches in Baton Rouge now, but he grew up in Pineville — a town of 14,500 in dead central Louisiana.

Pineville is no football factory, especially compared to its regional foes. It produced one NFL player in Martin’s 22 years as coach: Tony Taylor, a running back with a single NFL carry to his name.

Ford’s career could span more than a decade. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him as the 22nd-best prospect in the draft. At 6-foot-4 and 329 pounds, Ford is athletic enough to play tackle and strong enough to play guard.

“He destroys defenders at the point of attack,” Kiper, using a fitting verb, wrote.

Pineville groomed two more Division-I players in Martin’s time, but none quite like Ford.

“It’s a small town,” Martin said. “Just good people. Used to be a paper mill there, and it seemed like we had more people with toughness such as Cody. But in the last few years they were few and far between.”

Ford’s reserved, gentle demeanor away from the field is what makes his linebacker mentality on the offensive line all the more unsuspecting.

Ford, and those who know him best, credit Eddie Rabalais for nurturing that attitude. Rabalais, an offensive lineman in his playing days, was known to Cody as Papa.

“My dad, he basically was Cody’s best friend,” Leah Ford said.

In Ford’s Twitter bio, he includes “four-time Big 12 champ, graduate of Oklahoma, Joe Moore Award winner, NFL Draft 19 … and #RIPPAPA.”

He shared a picture of his grandfather on Monday, and wished him a happy birthday. Rabalais died four years ago this week.

“Cody knows his grandfather will be looking over him with a big smile on his face this Thursday night,” Martin said.

NFL Draft

When: First round 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Nashville, Tennessee

TV: ESPN, ABC, NFLNET

Related Photos
<strong>Cody Ford runs the shuttle drill as he works out for NFL scouts during the University of Oklahoma football pro day on March 13. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]</strong>

Cody Ford runs the shuttle drill as he works out for NFL scouts during the University of Oklahoma football pro day on March 13. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d7fb0269e5436c6775ac0949d2bf573d.jpg" alt="Photo - Cody Ford runs the shuttle drill as he works out for NFL scouts during the University of Oklahoma football pro day on March 13. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Cody Ford runs the shuttle drill as he works out for NFL scouts during the University of Oklahoma football pro day on March 13. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Cody Ford runs the shuttle drill as he works out for NFL scouts during the University of Oklahoma football pro day on March 13. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Joe Mussatto

Joe Mussatto joined The Oklahoman in August 2018 to cover OU football, men’s basketball and softball. He previously covered University of Kentucky football and basketball for SEC Country. Mussatto is from Oklahoma City and lives in Norman. Read more ›

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