Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 8:08 PM
When Michael Ford left LSU after last season to turn pro, many questioned his decision.
He was, after all, third on the Tigers’ depth chart at running back, so thinking he was ready to play for pay could look like a reach.
Draft experts wanted him to stay another year in Baton Rouge, work out the kinks in his game. Then they would take another look at the Leesville High product next spring.
But Ford believed in himself.
“I gave all my talents to LSU,” Ford told nola.com after making his decision. “I feel there is a higher ceiling out there for me.”
But when Ford went undrafted in April, one had to wonder if he had made a mistake.
Ford never did. He always believed he was an NFL-caliber running back. He just wanted to get a chance to prove it.
This summer he is doing just that.
Ford has turned more than a few heads in the Chicago Bears camp after the team signed him as a free agent. He is fighting for the third and final tailback job on the club.
Realistically, he is not going to beat out Lake Charles-born Matt Forté or backup Michael Bush, but that was never really in the plans. At least not this year.
Ford just wanted to make himself useful to the team, make it hard to cut him.
And even if the Bears could not use him, he wanted to put out enough highlights that another team would be willing to give him a look.
Michael Ford went to Chicago to sell Michael Ford.
He has done that.
Now in a battle with injured Armando Allen for the final spot in the backfield, Ford has perhaps surprised everybody but himself.
And he has done most of his eye-popping work on special teams.
Devin Hester may still be the kick return guru for the Bears, but Ford has shown he can do some good things when put back there.
In a game against San Diego last week, Ford had three returns for 160 yards.
He even broke one wide open, going 100 yards on a return but fell short of the end zone by 12 feet. He was caught from behind at the 4-yard-line after catching the ball deep in his own end zone.
With the change in kickoffs this year, long returns won’t likely be the norm, so Ford showed just what he can do.
Even if you take that long one out of the mix, he still averaged 30 yards per return. That will grab the attention of any coach.
“It would be tough not to like what you saw in a Michael Ford,” Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis told ESPNChicago. “He did a great job. On his long one, that wasn’t one of the better blocked returns that we had all night. He made a guy miss right in the hole. So that was a great run by him, and he did a better job on coverage, too.
“So he’s making it tough. He’s doing a good job of what we need to see from him, that’s for sure.”
Ford has four returns overall, most on the team, for 185 yards.
Add to the fact that Ford has been solid at running back late in games and you can see why the Bears are happy with their pickup.
In two games Ford has 21 carries (most on team) for 43 yards, which is second behind only Forté. He also has a 4-yard touchdown run in the preseason opener against Carolina.
Also, his five catches leads the Bears and adds another 36 yards to his totals of 264, this after just 11 carries in his last five games at LSU.
With those numbers nobody can question his decision right now.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org