Ford says Ring honor not all about him


by - Senior Writer -
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When the news broke late last week that Danny Ford was to be inducted into the Clemson Athletics Ring of Honor, he was doing what retirees and doting grandfathers love to do best – spending time with his family and grandchildren.

Ford and his family were at the beach on vacation when Clemson Sports Information Director Tim Bourret called with the unexpected news that Ford and former baseball coach Bill Wilhelm had earned the honor.

“I really didn’t know it was going to happen,” Ford told TigerNet in an exclusive interview Monday. “Tim Bourret called me whenever they announced it in the press that morning. I was buying breakfast for the grandkids, and I talked to him for just a minute.”

The Ring of Honor is the highest award bestowed by the Clemson Athletic department. An inductee must be a member of the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame, have an undergraduate degree from a four-year institution, and have made a significant impact on the heritage of Clemson athletic history.

Ford became Clemson’s head coach at age 30, his first head coaching job at any level, and led the Tigers to the National Championship in 1981 at the age of 33, still the youngest coach in college football history to win a Division I National Championship.

Ford told TigerNet that he appreciates the honor, but really wishes his space in the ring could be shared with all of the people who made the honor possible.

“I appreciate it very much. My father always told me to be appreciative of any honor you get, and I am,” he said. “But it’s not really for me. It’s for every player that ever played for us, and it’s for every team member that was on the field. It is for the managers and trainers and coaches. The lunchroom people. But most importantly, it’s for the coaches and their families and my family.

“If my name is up there, they can look up there and know the reason is that it’s not what I did at all, but what they did. It is up there because of them. The fans and the good faculty and the tutors we had. It takes a lot of people to make a program successful. If they take some pride in the fact and they realize that my name is up there because of them, then that would make me the happiest. I appreciate the Board of Trustees and administration letting it be up there.”

I asked Ford if he has allowed himself the pleasure of looking ahead to the ceremony – which will occur at a home game this fall – and thinking about what it will be like. He said that while he is sure it will be an occasion he remembers the rest of his life, nothing could ever top the feelings he felt when he took a victorious Clemson team into the Death Valley locker rooms after a home win.

“I can’t believe it will be any better than after you’ve won a football game at Clemson,” Ford said. “I am sure it is going to be exciting, but I can’t imagine it will be more exciting than when you took your football team off the field at Clemson after you won and everybody was standing up and hollering. I am sure it is going to be the same kind of atmosphere. But I can’t imagine it will be any better than that.”

Ford notes

*Ford took over as Clemson’s head coach for the 1978 Gator Bowl against Ohio State and guided the Tigers to a 17-15 win over Woody Hayes’s Buckeye team. Ford also defeated Hall of Fame coaches Joe Paterno (Penn State), Barry Switzer (Oklahoma), Tom Osborne (Nebraska) and Don Nehlen (West Virginia) in bowl games.

*The highlight of his career took place in 1981 when he led Clemson to a perfect 12-0 record, the only perfect season in the nation that year. Three of the wins were over top 10 teams Georgia, North Carolina and Nebraska. After that season he was named National Coach of the Year by United Press International, the Football Writers Association and the American Football Coaches Association.

*The Tigers followed with records of 9-1-1 in 1982 and 1983, giving the Tigers a 30-2-2 record over a three-year period, the best record in college football. In each of his last four seasons (1986-89) the Tigers lost only two games each year and the Tigers won 10 games in each of his last three. Clemson won consecutive ACC titles in 1986-87-88 and won bowl games in each of his last four seasons.
The Tigers had an 87-25-4 record in the decade of the 1980s and the .767 winning percentage was fifth best in college football for that decade. Ford finished his Clemson career with a 96-29-4 record (last game of 1978 through 1989).

*Ford’s five ACC Championships rank second in Clemson football history in terms of total league titles behind the six Frank Howard accumulated in the Southern Conference and ACC between 1940-69.
Fifty-seven of his Clemson players went on to play in the NFL, including 11 who played on Super Bowl Championship teams. Seventy-one times his players were named first-team All-ACC and 26 of his players earned first, second or third team All-America honors. Two of the All-Americans, Terry Kinard and Jeff Davis, are in the College Football Hall of Fame.

*Ford is the ninth player, coach or administrator to be inducted into the Clemson Football Ring of honor. Previously honored were Banks McFadden, Frank Howard, Steve Fuller, Jerry ButlerJerry Butler
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, Terry Kinard, Jeff Davis, Fred Cone and Bob Bradley.

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