It would take many months for Ben Ford to heal from a dislocated right elbow.
The East High quarterback’s injury in a Class 4A state semifinal last November kept him out of the championship game the next week.
“It was kind of heartbreaking because you never really know when your last play is going to be. Pate [Langi], our center, was my best friend and he was a senior,” Ford said. “It was devastating to know that I would never get to hand the ball to Jaylen Warren, the best running back in Utah history, ever again.”
But Ford still decided to dress in full uniform anyway, with shoulder pads and everything, instead of standing on the sideline in street clothes as East beat Springville for the 4A title.
And he actually did get in the game.
Ford, who had quarterbacked the powerhouse East team to an undefeated season, was healthy enough to take the last two snaps and kneel down to run out the clock.
“It was one of the hardest moments in my life. But it was probably my favorite,” Ford said. “To get to take a snap behind Pate, to have Jaylen behind me, it was special.”
“If you looked up at the JumboTron, he was very emotional — and so were the rest of the guys,” East coach Brandon Matich said. “There was a real close, zoomed-in shot of him while taking the snap. It was a hard week and a hard moment for that young man.”
School • East
Year • Senior
Position • Quarterback
Ford is back to leading the Leopards’ offensive unit this year. He says that he’s been working out his right elbow from the day he was able to throw again.
“My ability to throw the ball has grown immensely since last season, which is kind of counter to what you would think,” Ford said.
Throwing the ball, at least the need to, hasn’t really been a big deal for East in recent times. As the Leopards pounded the ball last year behind Warren’s 3,099 yards and Sione Molisi’s 1,059, Ford threw the ball a total of 36 times the whole season.
Ford, who also rushed for 726 yards in 2016, feels like East is tossing the ball more on offense this year. But it doesn’t really matter all that much to Ford.
“I’m fine going 0 for 0, 0 yards. I’m fine not even carrying the ball,” said Ford, who sees himself as an heir to option-style quarterbacks at East that — for him — started with Jason Cook in 2010.
He also wants to follow through on the precedent set by his East teammates who have graduated just ahead of him.
“I played for East little league all the way growing up, since I was 8 years old,” Ford said. “I want us to capitalize on what those senior boys did for us [last year]. They got us national respect, they got us state respect. We just have to do our best to capitalize on that.”
“He’s really the quintessential kid you want at quarterback,” Matich said. “He’s smart, he excels in the classroom and he’s garnering a lot of attention from most of the Ivy League schools.
“Really, he’s a great leader. These kids would follow him to hell and back.”
And what Matich would like to see from his senior quarterback is another trip to Rice-Eccles Stadium in November — with his signal-caller taking snaps on plays where the offense is trying to move forward.
“I hope he doesn’t have to do that again,” Matich said. “I hope he’s kneeling with a smile upon his face.”