Leadership does not stop with an injury
He is a champion. A quiet champion.
Alex Ford won a state title in wrestling last school year, then went to work in hopes of helping the Prairie Falcons make some noise on the football field.
Quietly, though. That’s his way.
“I never really saw myself as a leader,” Ford said. “Just somebody who pays attention and does what needs to be done.”
It turns out, those are leadership qualities, too. One does not always have to scream and shout to be heard.
“He is a determined young man and clearly a leader,” Prairie football coach Will Ephraim said. “He leads by example and is a man of few words. He is like E.F. Hutton. When he speaks, everyone listens.”
Forgive Ephraim for a reference from the 1970s and early 1980s. But that was one incredible ad campaign for E.F. Hutton.
On the Prairie football team, though, it’s Alex Ford doing the advising.
The Falcons secured a winning season on Friday night with a victory over Evergreen. Prairie also still has a chance at the postseason. But it was only a few weeks ago when the Falcons weren’t so sure of any of this success.
“To be honest, it’s been really hard for our team to become a team,” Ford said. “We’ve had a lot of struggles just supporting one another, encouraging one another. The last few weeks, we’ve been having leadership meetings, bringing people together, becoming one, becoming a team.”
It was the measured Ford who led many of those meetings.
It was not just talk, though. Ford had to lead from one of the most difficult positions for an athlete: From the sideline with an injury.
A knee injury kept Ford out of action for a bit this season. He returned for a few plays last week, then was set to play a full game Friday night at McKenzie Stadium against Evergreen.
Only, it didn’t last. Ford was injured again, this time in the first quarter. It was the left knee again.
He did get some good news on the sideline. He was in pain, but he was told he did not do any more damage to the knee. In fact, he hoped he would ice it for a bit then come back into the game if he felt he could.
By halftime, though, he knew it would not be wise.
“I trusted the team to do it without me,” Ford said.
Oh, but that initial pain from that play in the first quarter … it nearly crushed him.
“After that happened, I was pretty depressed about not being able to play,” Ford said.
He came to terms with the situation, then made the best of it. He might not have been able to play, but the team still needed one of its leaders. So there was Ford, on the sideline. Again, no screaming. No hollering. But he had an encouraging word for just about every player who came off the field.
“I was really sad about not playing,” Ford said. “But I figured, I’m not going to help my team at all by being sad and crying about it in the corner. So I just wanted to support them.”
Then he watched his teammates shut out Evergreen in the second half, preserving a 13-6 victory to keep hope alive for a Prairie playoff berth.
“Seeing them put it together, it was awesome,” Ford said.
Prairie must win next week and Kelso must beat Evergreen for Prairie to get into a tiebreaker scenario to get a chance at the playoffs.
Those leadership meetings midseason just might have been the key to Prairie’s turnaround. Alex Ford, even without playing, helped save Prairie’s season.
“It’s pretty hard not playing, but I’m just so happy for everybody that we have this chance,” Ford said.
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