NEW PALESTINE — His teammates could have been jealous. His 1,830 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns could have gone to someone else. But that’s not how things work around New Palestine.
Walking into a football program built on selflessness, hard work and dedication, DuRon Ford had no idea what to expect the first time he stepped through the front doors of New Palestine High School. He saw the trophies. He met the “intimidating” head coach. The only thing Ford knew? He wanted a chance to play.
And his teammates and coach gave him the best chance possible.
“We’ve had guys every year making sacrifices for the betterment of our team,” Dragons head coach Kyle Ralph said, who has lost just three games in four seasons at the school. “It makes our program better. When you have a featured guy like that, everybody knows where you are and where you’re going to be going.
Story continues below gallery
“It is a testament to DuRon as a runner. He was very appreciative. But the unsung story of the year is what the guys did around him.”
Arriving in New Palestine during the last chunk of the 2015-16 school year, Ford eased his transition — after being granted eligibility by the IHSAA — by running for the boys track team, which is also coached by Ralph. However, a setback would further cloud his football future.
Not only did Ford battle new surroundings, he battled a hamstring injury. It set him back even further after missing an entire summer of workouts — a time for building chemistry with unfamiliar teammates.
In fact, Ford didn’t take a single handoff until August, according to Ralph. Now, after earning The Daily Reporter Offensive Football Player of the Year, it’s safe to say Ford literally took an opportunity and ran with it.
“I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?,’” Ford said he wondered that first day, realizing how seriously football is taken at the school. “(Coach Ralph) told me I really needed to be dedicated to everything and the program. Everybody was very welcoming. They accepted me.
“I realized watching film after the first game the things everybody else has to do on the team to help me do what I do. It made me appreciate them, especially my linemen and the fight they put in every game.”
Ford’s 32 touchdowns were the fifth most in the state this season. He also finished at No. 16 in total rushing yards (1,830) and was ninth in rushing yards per game at 183. Even as the No. 1 player on opposing team’s scouting reports, Ford nearly averaged a first down (9.2 yards) per carry.
At 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, Ford possesses a low center of gravity and a never-give-up attitude. He used every tool he learned in the short amount of time spent with the Dragons’ coaching staff, too. The elusive back totaled more than 100 yards nine times and scored four or more touchdowns six times.
Ford finished with a season-high 228 yards and five scores against Pendleton Heights. In the season-opening win against Whiteland at Lucas Oil Stadium, Ford shined on the big stage in a 12-point win with more than 200 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.
“The best part about him wasn’t speed or acceleration,” Ralph said. “It was his willingness to learn. He wanted to be held accountable.”
Attending Brebeuf Jesuit and Pike before transferring, Ford was forced to make a difficult decision during his junior year: move to Texas with his mom, DeCarla Ford, or find a relative to live within Indiana. Luckily, his uncle, Anton McReynolds, lives in the New Palestine school district.
“I didn’t want to leave the state,” Ford said. “I didn’t want to leave my other friends and family.”
Although it was a season to remember, Ralph noted that Ford isn’t the first player to transfer to New Palestine that has made an immediate impact — a true testament to the program. For example, defensive tackle Jordan Workman was a big aid to the Dragons 2015 state runner-up team. He eventually was named an all-state honorable mention.
“When someone is new at a featured position, it draws more headlines,” Ralph said. “My first season, we had a kid who hadn’t played since fifth grade. He ended being a starter and staple of our defense that year.”
The next step for Ford, though, is finding another place to call home, this time in college. Regardless of the location, the personable senior has become awfully good at fitting in.
According to Ford, the University of Indianapolis and Marian University are two local schools that have shown interest. Cincinnati Christian University also has been in the mix, Ralph said.
More than anything, though, this season helped Ford get his mojo back. Scoring 32 touchdowns certainly helps.
“This season gave me a little bit of my confidence back,” Ford said. “I always played football and had a part on the team, but I really never played much. I think my love for football grew a little bit more. It helped better myself as a person.”
Built Ford Tough
DuRon Ford, New Palestine
By the Numbers: 1,830 rushing yards, 32 touchdown, 9.2 yards per carry, nine games with 100 or more yards, six games with four or more touchdowns, 183 rushing yards per game
Awards: All-Hoosier Heritage Conference
Hobbies: Track, Video games (NBA 2K17)
Family: DeCarla Ford, Mother; Anton McReynolds, Uncle