Happy Birthday To A National Champion Coach
Today, Tide 100.9 celebrates the 73rd birthday of Alabama Football alumnus and 1981 national championship coach Danny Ford.
Born and raised in Gadsden, Alabama, Ford would go on to play for the Gadsden High School Tigers (Now the Gadsen City High School Titans). He graduated in 1966 and played under coach Paul "Bear" Bryant in three bowl games between 1967 and 1969 while earning his bachelor's degree in industrial arts.
Prior to leaving the Capstone, the All-SEC talent finished a master's degree in special education and managed to earn a position as an assistant for the offensive line in 1973, the year of Bryant's fourth national championship. As an assistant in recruiting as well, one of his most well-known prospects to date is two-time All-SEC tight end and Alabama's player of the decade (1970's), Ozzie Newsome.
He spent the next three seasons in Blacksburg, Virginia, also coaching the offensive line, under head coach Charlie Coffey (1971-1973) and Jimmy Sharpe (1974-1977) at Virginia Tech.
Ford joined fellow Alabama native and alumnus, Charley Pell, at Clemson as an offensive line coach in 1977 as Pell was given the reins in the year prior. Pell left for the Florida head coaching job in 1978 and left Ford as his successor. In 1981, at just 32-years old, Ford led the Clemson Tigers to its first national championship in the school's long history.
Considering the fact that ESPN was in its infancy and the internet, as we know it at least, wouldn't come for almost another decade, recruiting talent prior to the national championship was extremely regional. On these constraints, Ford said, "We figured that everyone within a four-hour radius of Clemson, back then you know, was good enough for us to win."
His tenure with the Tigers lasted over a decade and included three Gator Bowl wins, two Citrus Bowl wins, and an Orange Bowl win to secure the national title. Ford finished his career there 96-29-4 - including no losing seasons - winning five ACC titles and as arguably one of the most impactful coaches in the school's history.
When asked about his championship-level success at such a young age, Ford said, "Well it was just a thing that happened, I guess - Something nobody expected, not even us. Being that young, I don't think we did a good job of capitalizing on it because we didn't know what to do."
He made his way back to the SEC in 1993 and took over the head coaching job at Arkansas until Houston Nutt was hired for the 1998 season. While his success wasn't as large as his time at Clemson, Ford still managed to take the Razorbacks to the 1995 SEC championship and set up his successor for six consecutive bowl appearances.
Ford's legacy and career 122-59-5 win total earned him a spot in the 1993 class for the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame as well as a 2017 induction to the national College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. His name is featured in Clemson's Ring of Honor in Memorial Stadium and in September of 2017 Ford was selected to be an honorary captain for an Alabama Football game in Tuscaloosa.
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