CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Standing at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Luke Ford is hard to miss on the football field but he stands out for more than just his size. The former 4-star tight end practiced for the first time as an Illini Tuesday morning with the start of spring ball for Illinois.
“I’m loving it so far, just trying to get adjusted to the cold out here,” Ford said. “But I had a good day at practice and I’m having fun.”
Ford transferred from Georgia, where he spent just one semester. He was the top propsect in the state in the 2018 class out of Carterville in Southern Illinois. The Illini were in his Top 3 list but Ford ultimately headed south. The relationships he formed with the Illinois coaching staff were a big difference when considering a school the second time, as well as getting closer to home.
“It’s awesome to be playing for my home state and Illinois fans are awesome,” said Ford. “I got a lot of support from them on Twitter, and I’m just happy to be here it’s really awesome.”
In his freshman season at Georgia, Ford played in nine games but was used mainly as a blocking tight end, only catching one pass for four yards. The Illinois coaching staff will likely give him a bigger role in the passing offense, something offensive coordinator Rod Smith can’t wait to see play out on the field.
“He’s got a really good skill set, that we’d like to be able to utilize,” Smith said. “He’s a very physical guy, I think he’s going to bring a physical presence to us that’s needed.”
“I’ve seen Luke work in the off season, he’s as good as advertised I believe,” Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said. “It was a good step for him to get back on the practice football field, we have a lot of big plans for him.”
Whether or not Ford sees the field this fall is still in question. The sophomore says the school has applied for a hardship waiver, now it’s just a waiting game to see if he’s approved or not. Lovie Smith says he feels they have ‘a pretty good shot’ to be approved.