Luke Ford grateful for fresh start with new staff: “(I’m) working harder than I ever have before”

Illini

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — After one season in Orange and Blue, Luke Ford hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype that’s been attached to him since high school. But the charismatic Carterville native and the state’s top ranked recruit in the Class of 2018, is able to see the light-hearted side of things, even through a tough couple of years.

“My first year at Georgia I caught one ball, then my second year playing (college) football I caught two,” Ford joked in a Zoom with media on Wednesday. “So if I really continue on that record I could have the potential to have four catches this year.”

The sarcasm speaks louder than his entrance into his latest Zoom. Ford wore shorts and a cowboy hat, before taking it off in favor of a backwards baseball cap. Ford is looking to rejuvenate his career, and a new coaching staff is exactly what he needed.

“I’ve never wanted to be at the facility more,” Ford said. “I’ve been here more, putting in more overtime than I ever have before and working harder than I ever have before. It’s all because this staff is so great, it makes me want to show up to the building. Makes me want to work harder.”

The former four-star recruit and No. 1 tight end in the country, flashed his potential in the Spring Game, with five receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown. After the game, Bret Bielema praised his 6-foot-6, 250 pound pass catcher for the progress he’s made both on and off the field.

“I’ve really seen his maturity level in everything that he’s doing take a big step forward,” Bielema said. “He’s still going to have that big personality and do certain things. I think he’s concentrating on what’s important now, taking care of his academic world and concentrating on being a good football player.”

“That’s a great compliment from the staff being more mature, but it has a lot to do with the staff making me want to and making tons of other guys want to,” added Ford.

This is the first time Bielema is coaching Ford but the two have known each other for years. Ford originally pledged to play for Bielema at Arkansas in 2017 before decommitting and signing with Georgia. He transferred to Illinois after one season but had to sit out the 2019 season after a waiver to play right away was denied by the NCAA.

Ford played in eight games last season, starting two, but only catching two passes for 15 yards.

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