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Ford looking forward to returning to Blue Bombers following NFL tryout

Tyrell Ford Green Bay Packers Tyrell Ford - John Fisher/Getty Images

Tyrell Ford can see coaching in his football future but is gladly hanging up his whistle for the next little while.

The 25-year-old defensive back will resume his CFL career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers after missing last season to pursue NFL opportunities. During that time, Ford worked with the coaching staff at his alma mater, the University of Waterloo, before ultimately deciding to return to Manitoba.

"Oh, 100 per cent. I want to be a coach … but I'm super excited about going back (to Winnipeg)," Ford told The Canadian Press. "Right off the jump, I miss the guys.

"It's unfortunate some guys won't be there, obviously it's a business and that's how it goes. But I definitely miss the guys and to the ones who're still there, I can't wait to get back to work with them. I really missed playing."

Winnipeg selected Ford, of Niagara Falls, Ont., in the second round, 13th overall, of the 2022 CFL draft. The five-foot-11, 200-pound Ford had 10 tackles (three solo) in 18 regular-season games before finishing his rookie season in the Bombers' 24-23 Grey Cup loss to the Toronto Argonauts.

Shortly afterwards, Winnipeg released Ford to pursue NFL opportunities. After working out for six teams, Ford signed with Green Bay but was waived at the end of training camp. He remained a free agent hoping for another shot but it didn't come.

"I missed a lot of my first camp with Winnipeg because I had (NFL) mini-camps so the only true camp I've been to was an NFL camp," Ford said. "It was pretty intense there, a lot of guys, a lot of moving parts.

"The hardest part was probably the terminology. We're saying the same thing but we're saying it differently."

Ford had a stellar pro day in March 2022 at the University at Buffalo. He posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds, 17 reps in the 225-pound bench press, 36.5-inch vertical leap and broad jump of 10 feet six inches.

Ford, whose twin brother, Tre, is a quarterback with the Edmonton Elks, also performed at the CFL combine. He finished the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds and recorded a 4.42-second shuttle.

While waiting for another NFL team to call, Ford returned to Waterloo, assisting defensive backs coach Jerome Erdman.

"Tyrell certainly helped us a lot," Warriors head coach Chris Bertoia said. "The thing about Tyrell is he's a 100 per cent guy.

"He empowers others and has the ability to push and help them achieve their goals."

Added Ford: "I found coaching really interesting. I definitely realized I liked coaching an older group of players … it gets more competitive and a little more intense. I feel I thrive in that kind of environment, not just me but everybody around me."

When he's done playing, Ford could see himself not only becoming a football coach but also helping prepare players for off-season combines. As a former track sprinter, Ford has learned firsthand the values of maximizing motion and running efficiently.

"People look at NFL (40-yard dash) times and CFL times and see a huge gap and I don't think the gap is that big," Ford said. "Yeah, some (NFL prospects) are fast … but it's learning how to do everything efficiently.

"Sometimes people think, 'Work harder, run harder,' but that's not always the case because efficiency is key. I just feel like some people haven't (been taught) proper running mechanics and I just want to help them in that sense."

Ford, three times an Ontario all-star and twice a second-team All-Canadian at Waterloo, feels the year off from playing football has actually helped him.

"I definitely got stronger, I got faster," he said. "I got a little bit more experience even though it was in the American game … but I definitely feel I improved and learned a lot."

When Ford reports to Winnipeg's training camp in May, it will be to secure a starting spot at cornerback. Ford will certainly have that opportunity with Demerio Houston now being in Calgary and veteran Winston Rose, a 2019 CFL all-star, having not been re-signed.

"Obviously nothing is given, you've got to go there and compete," Ford said. "But I feel I've learned a lot, I'm a little bit more confident and I definitely think it's my spot to lose."

This season, Winnipeg will chase a fifth straight Grey Cup appearance but its first CFL championship since 2021.

"We have a great group of guys and a great coaching staff," Ford said. "I'm not going to talk crazy, but I'm definitely confident in us and I think we have what it takes."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 13, 2024.