Port Arthur native Morgan Ford talks winding road to XFL assistant coach for Wade Phillips

Published 12:36 am Sunday, September 18, 2022

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Morgan Ford has always made the most of his opportunities.

That ability is what is, in part, how Ford parlayed an invitation to an NFLPA event into a spot on Wade Phillips’ coaching staff for the XFL team in Houston.

“Cam Davis, who is now the assistant defensive line coach for the Detroit Lions, got me on with the NFLPA, which was the greatest week ever,” Ford said. “I got to work with Jeff Fisher and meet Wade Phillips and so many more. I met Marvin Lewis, Josh Cribbs and Chris Chambers. The list goes on and on.”

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Ford, who is a Memorial High graduate, was working operations and became a defensive intern when the original defensive intern didn’t show.

“I was elated,” Ford said. “I worked with Wade every day. There wasn’t a day I didn’t talk to him. Our routine was breakfast and late at night. At breakfast, we would talk about practice and what he does. Late at night, you get great stories from him. He has coached so many different great players. He talks about things that have happened, that are going to happen and that should happen.”

Not thinking much would come from the event other than great experience, Ford went back to his new job at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

In April, Phillips reached out to Ford for the initial contact.

“I didn’t hear nothing back from him,” Ford said. “It was Wade Phillips. He knows a million guys. Why me? He called me back a month later and offered me the job.”

Phillips’ offer for Ford to coach the defensive backs for the Houston team was further proof that Ford’s ability to adapt and stay ready paid off.

Ford was born and raised in Port Arthur and is the son of a Thomas Jefferson graduate (his father) and a Lincoln graduate (his mother).

“Port Arthur is my roots,” he said. “The majority of my family is from here and still lives here.”

Ford had been around the Memorial program since he was 9 years old, when his dad’s good friend, Kenny Ray Harrison, took over the football team.

“Just being around the program as a young kid was great,” Ford said. “You got to see guys you grew up watching play in the park. I was new. I wanted to be one of those guys.”

Ford was once ranked one of the top defensive backs in the area with the Titans until he graduated in 2015.

“I was pretty heavily recruited,” he said. “I had about six Division I offers and talked to a lot of schools, but I didn’t have the SAT scores to go to those schools, so I had to go to a junior college.”

Ford continued his playing career at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock. After two years there, Ford transferred to Mississippi Valley State, where he finished out his eligibility.

“Every day my senior year, my college coaches would ask me what I wanted to do,” he said. “I told them that I honestly didn’t know. They asked if I wanted to coach and I quickly shut them down. It was something I absolutely didn’t want to do. I think I was fighting the truth. During my senior year of high school, a lot of people were telling me that I should coach their kids. I didn’t think they knew what they were talking about.”

Morgan Ford, a Port Arthur native, played defensive back for Memorial. (Courtesy photo)

Ford learned a lot about coaching from studying Harrison and the way he interacted with and cared for players.

After his senior season at MVS, Ford reached out to a friend, who was coaching in an all-star game to see if he could help and potentially get the number for another coach.

“The coach told me that the other coach was going to be there and that I should come coach the all-start game with them,” Ford said. “I go to New Orleans. I am thinking I am just going to be an assistant DB coach and watch. Someone said ‘OK, Ford, you got ‘em.’ They told me I had the DBs.”

Ford put the defensive backs through drills he ran in college and was able to impress the coaching staff.

“I went back to Mississippi Valley for the spring and since I was done playing, I would basically just help coach the position I played,” Ford said. “One of the guys I coached went on to be all-conference in the fall, which was pretty cool.”

At the time, Ford was trying to get onto a high school coaching staff but was having little luck.

“One of the coaches I was talking to said I might want to slow down with the high schools and try to get on with the colleges,” Ford said. “Another told me to be a grad assistant somewhere and that high school will always be there.”

Ford, who was still in his early 20s and did not have any children, was able to take a chance on himself.

After reaching out to three college coaching staffs and being turned down, Ford became discouraged. He called a coach he knew well and was able to set up an interview at East Texas Baptist University.

“My birthday was May 3, graduated May 4 and I interviewed and got the job on May 6,” Ford said. “It was a great weekend.”

Ford began to talk to friends to get pointers on his new job, which was to coach the corners at ETBU.

“They told me that they would let me have the corners and that if they felt they could trust me, I would take over the safeties, too, at some point in the season,” Ford said. “That was my motivation. I was 22 years old, coaching guys that were 22.”

The corners Ford coached that season were seniors and had not earned any conference accolades up to that point. Both finished the season as all-conference players, with one tying the school record for interceptions in a game with three and the other finished second in the nation in pass breakups.

“I started to think I could do this,” Ford said. “After the season, guys move on. One of our coaches went on to Lamar University and asked if I wanted to join the staff because I was a local guy.”

Ford started at Lamar as a special teams and quality control coach. Midway through the fall, Ford earned the title of assistant recruiting coordinator, where Ford was able to make his mark by scouting the local talent.

“From the class of 2021 to this last class, I had a hand in recruiting, especially the local guys,” he said. “I told the coaches that if we wanted to sell tickets and have people come watch Lamar football, you have to recruit the kids locally.”

After the NFLPA week, Ford was offered a job at the University of Louisiana-Monroe until Phillips called with an offer he couldn’t refuse.