Ford's whole world has changed

When Bishop Miege High School offensive lineman Phil Ford left home to play football at Iowa Western with the intent to eventually transfer to Kansas, he never expected his life to drastically change. But, in an instant the big 6-foot-6-inch, 330-pound 18-year-old saw his life change in ways he never would have imagined.

It was all about football for Phil Ford, a Kansas commit out of high school. However, in the past month the life of this young man has drastically changed.

"It kind of all started when I was in high school," Ford said. "I used to go to church back home with my mom. I wasn't really into it all that much and kind of told my mom that I didn't really want to be there."

Prepping at Bishop Miege High School, an accredited private Catholic high school located in Roeland Park, Kansas, Ford received scholarship offers from Kansas and Minnesota.

"When I was in high school I committed to Kansas, but I didn't qualify and so I came out here to Iowa Western Community College," Ford said. "I met a guy out here named Stetzon Bair."

Bair, a defensive tackle, has a brother named Brandon who plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.

"He's a return missionary and I became really close to him while playing up here for Iowa Western," Ford said. "He served a mission and is now going to Oregon. We became really close. We just started talking about the Church and everything."

Ford's introduction to the LDS faith didn't just stop with Bair.

"Then there are a couple of girls up here that play soccer that are from Provo and Salt Lake City and other places in Utah," said Ford. "I got really close to one of these girls, Kailee Kartchner, and she was born in Cali and moved out to someplace in Utah and then came out here to play soccer, and we became good friends. One night we were talking about the Church and she was telling me about how the Church changed her life and how she became a part of it. I started going to church with her and everything."

So, he began attending a local LDS ward with his college friends. Soon church meetings turned into meetings with the missionaries.

"I went to church one Sunday and what really got me was how they wanted us to do something throughout the entire year to help us become closer to our Heavenly Father," recalled Ford. "I then started talking to the elders and meeting with them."

Soon, Ford turned to prayer.

"The Saturday night before I went to church, I prayed about it," Ford said in a somber voice. "I remember I asked Heavenly Father if the Church was true, and to let me know or give me a sign or answer if this was the church where I should be baptized. I remember when I was there that day, I really felt the Sprit. I remember telling Kailee about it."

Ford then got up out of his seat and went to use the restroom, and that's when he had a remarkable experience.

"I remember looking at myself in the mirror and just kind of thinking about things. It was kind of a personal moment where I was alone. I remember talking to Heavenly Father while looking at myself in the mirror.

"I then felt the Spirit touch me on my shoulder for a moment and whisper to me, ‘Yes, this is the true church.' I remember hearing about how important it was to be baptized in the true church. That was just crazy for me and really an incredible experience."

Having just had a personal spiritual experience, the tough offensive tackle was quickly reduced to tears.

"I got a bunch of weird stares after that too," he said with a laugh. "It was just an amazing experience.

"I shared that experience with the congregation during testimony Sunday. I told them how I received an answer to my prayers at the same time God touched my shoulder. I remember talked about how it was kind of funny how when I came back I was crying. Everyone was asking me, ‘Why are you crying?' All I said was, ‘I want to get baptized,' and [Kailee] started crying too."

Ford was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on March 31.

"Ever since then my whole world has changed," he said. "Ever since then I started getting closer to my mom and my sister and we started getting closer together."

However, it wasn't all roses initially.

"At first my mom had some really choice words for me," said Ford with a slight laugh in his voice. "I guess she thought that I was coming out here and didn't involve her as much with it at first. She was really upset about that at first and thought that I would go away to college and forget about her and that she wouldn't see me again when I go on my mission.

"I had a talk with her and some of the other LDS soccer girls and my bishop at my church. After that she was really proud of me and happy for me."

Soon, he approached his coach at Iowa Western about his football future.

"I asked my head coach here on campus if it would be possible for me to go to BYU instead of going to Kansas," said Ford. "He told me, ‘Yes, that's definitely possible.' I was talking to members of my ward about it, and we have a lot of BYU graduates here and everything. Then I spoke to Kailee's mom, Carry Kartchner, and she told me how she graduated from BYU Idaho and she told me how she liked being at a BYU school and about the amazing experiences she had there."

Once again, Ford turned to prayer.

"I then prayed about it for a good 15 to 20 minutes, asking the Lord if He wanted me to go to BYU if the coaches contact me," Ford said. "I just started crying and everything, asking Him to please show me a little sign.

"I saw a lot of my friends that were graduating and were going back to Utah. We spent the last hour together and I said goodbye to them and said, ‘Hopefully I'll be living in the state of Utah a lot sooner and be playing at BYU.' I had something holding me back from trying to call a coach at BYU because I was afraid I might be doing something wrong."

However, Ford mustered up the courage and made an effort to reach out.

"I called the running backs coach, Joe DuPaix, about one in the morning," said Ford. "We talked for about 30 to 45 minutes about me coming out there to play and about me serving a mission and everything. He was telling me about how he served a mission and how it was amazing …

" … He was asking me about my plans to serve a mission and I told him that I wanted to go out there to BYU first, then go on my mission. That was kind of my plan too, to go out there and play first and make sure I graduate before I go on my mission."

And what if he could be drafted into the NFL following college?

"My mom asked me about that," Ford said with a laugh. "I prayed about it and I talked to her a lot about it and said, ‘That would be amazing and I would probably just go play in the NFL for two or three years, then go on my mission. I'm only 18 years old right now but will turn 19 this July."

On Wednesday, Cougar offensive line coach Mark Weber will be flying into Kansas City and paying a visit to Iowa Western to watch Ford work out.

"It's been really amazing how my life has really changed over the past month or so. My life has changed so much and I can see how much my testimony has changed me. I really excited about Coach Weber coming out to watch us work out. I'm hoping I do good."

So, Ford will turn to prayer once more.

"Yes, I'll be praying hard," Ford said. "There is so much more out there and I'll be graduating in January next year. If BYU offered me, I would love to go out there and play, yes sir! I've had so many people and so many friends say they would love to see me playing in Provo. It's just so incredible and I'm praying it happens."

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