Caldwell Column: Built Ford Tough

We take a look at Auburn's NFL Draft selections including defensive end Dee Ford's rise to first round pick.

Auburn, Ala.--When Dee Ford was drafted in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night it completed one of the most impressive Auburn runs I have had a chance to witness in my 15 years on the job. That's because I remember what Ford looked like the first time I saw him in the summer before his senior season at St. Clair County High School, and it's a far cry from the man Ford has become.

A standout defensive end in high school, not many who recruited Ford thought he had the physical tools to stay at the position on the collegiate level, but Auburn's Tommy Tuberville and Terry Price did. Although he was just 195 pounds soaking wet when he camped on the Plains that summer, he was impressive in drills and showed that he had the potential to be a game-changer.

The only problem Ford had was getting big enough to hold his ground at defensive end against guys who were sometimes more than 100 pounds bigger than him. Because of that Ford set out to gain weight and with a very high metabolism that meant putting in extra work and making his body a machine.

From the time he arrived at Auburn, Ford was always carrying around a large jug of water to stay hydrated and some type of food to keep his energy level up. That's because he was always working to improve his size and endurance.

Those workouts often included extra time at a local gym on top of his Auburn workouts. Many times I would see Ford during the afternoons in the summer working out after he already had his workout in from the Auburn strength and conditioning staff. That dedication told me he was going to be a player for the Tigers if he could only stay healthy.

That question lingered even into his senior season when he missed the first two games with a knee injury, but Ford was determined to get the job done. Not reaching full speed until very late in the season, he was a dominant force for the Tigers on the road to the SEC Championship.

Dee Ford is shown at his Auburn Pro Day workout in March.

Now he gets the opportunity to live out his dream of playing in the NFL. Knowing Dee and the work ethic he's had since he arrived at Auburn a skinny defensive end, he'll be a roaring success for the Chiefs and a player his teammates respect and love in the locker room as well.

Robinson's Role

There is no question that Greg Robinson is going to be a success for the St. Louis Rams as an offensive lineman, but it was interesting to hear that they may give him his first look at guard. I think the move is a great one for him as he embarks on his NFL career because it will allow him to get his feet wet in the offense while also allowing his natural athletic ability to shine through.

It is a move that helped Hall of Fame players such as Jonathan Ogden and Willie Roaf when they first got to the league and should be something that helps out Robinson as well. His future is at offensive tackle, but his present may be at guard and that's a move that should work out well for the Rams and Robinson alike.

Robinson will have the chance to block for his teammate and Auburn running back Tre Mason with the Rams. Mason will challenge former Vanderbilt and Bibb County (Ala.) High back Zac Stacy for the job. Last season Stacy led the Rams with 973 yards and seven touchdowns and while he's a solid back, Mason is a player who could help the offense take a step forward in the running game because of his ability to make something out of nothing.

Thought to be a big-play running back coming out of high school, Mason worked hard to become a dependable player and one of the best short yardage runners in Auburn history. Those traits will work well in a league that is tough on runners. Backs have to be able to take the two and three-yard gains instead of trying to hit the home run every time. Mason has the ability to break runs, but it will be his consistency that shines for the Rams.

Prosch Gets His Shot

It was great to see Jay Prosch get his chance to play in the NFL when the Houston Texans selected him in the sixth round. With former Alabama tight end Brad Smelley one of his challengers at the fullback position, Prosch should have a leg up on the position because of his ability to clear a path for ball carriers.

Working in different types of offensive systems in his time at Auburn and Illinois have also given him a chance to evolve his game as a blocking back, something important when trying to make an NFL roster.


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