The last time that the Ford family patriarch made his way up to Berkley? 1990, the year he graduated. Things have changed.
The entire family -- Ford, his father, mother Maria, older brother Michael, Jr. (19), and younger brother Bobby (7) -- made the trek up for Nick's first official visit this past weekend, and while California Memorial Stadium has changed -- to the tune of a $464 million renovation -- the feeling was the same as it was in the late 1980s, when Michael ran routes on what is now Kabam Field.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1736534-bearterritory-gift... "Biggest smile ever," Nick said, of his father's reaction to seeing his old stomping grounds. "It brought back memories for him. He said that a lot of the stuff was the same, but more modern, and there was a lot of new stuff, as well."
Official visits, these days, are a bit different, too. The crew -- which included early enrollee Taariq Johnson and Notre Dame commit Elijah Hicks -- took a ferry to San Francisco on Friday night; sailed under the Bay Bridge; tucked down some buffalo wings, nachos and quesadillas; and hit the arcade at Pier 39 Players Arcade, where player host Jake Curhan and Ford engaged in a battle royale in a Jurassic Park shooting game. Ford proudly answered that he dominated the dino-hunting adventure.
"Me and Jake were playing games, and I spent a lot of quality time with him," Ford said. "He said he liked it, but not to enroll anywhere early, because messed up his ankle and wasn't able to play. He said that it's a good program, a great place to be, and it definitely wouldn't be a mistake if I came there. The way the program is looking, and how athletic I am, he said I'd be able to get onto the field."
The retinue was also joined by J.D. Hinnant -- who caught a two-point conversion pass this year, something that Ford, with his receiver father and past as a tight end, could certainly do. Hinnant and Curhan, as well as Nygel Edmonds, Chinedu Udeogu and Semisi Uluave served as the main player hosts, with Hinnant hosting the group at his apartment later in the evening.
"It was me, J.T., Semisi, two other players, we just sat down and were watching ESPN, and just talking," Ford said. "Nothing really came as a surprise to me, but one thing I really did appreciate about the players up there, and not only the players, but the people up there, is that they have really nice hospitality. Everything's in your best interests, even regular students. We were out walking, it was cold, and this lady didn't know us, but we stopped at the corner because we were waiting for a ride, she asked us to come in for some hot chocolate. It's a really loving environment up there."
On Saturday, Ford sat down and spoke with offensive line coach Brandon Jones.
"First, we talked about some family things, and memories with my dad," Ford said. "After that, we talked about why he wanted me to come to the university, and what he wanted me to play and how he thought, what kind of a player I was, how he wanted to go through the process with me. We talked about their running scheme and their plays a little bit and watched a little bit of film."
After receiving his offer in late October, and communicating over the last four months, there weren't any burning questions that Ford needed answering.
"It was more or less a casual conversation, just reminding me of stuff, because it was mainly stuff I'd already been told, because I've been dealing with Berkeley for probably about four months now," Ford said. "There was little to nothing I didn't know."
Ford plays in a mixed system at San Pedro (Calif.), featuring elements both of pro-style and the spread.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1722752-cal-offers-legacy-..."I'm good at both of them," Ford said. "We'll get into guard-over and Power-I and all of that, but we'll also spread out to double-doubles and triples, so I've literally experienced every formation, screen passes, it's just balanced."
How does that compare with what he learned about the Bears?
"It's the exact same as it is in high school," he said. "Relationships-wise, at practice, they're going to be tough on you and make you feel uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, they're going to love you and treat you like a son, and they want you to play and do what's best for the team."
When it comes to school, Ford and his family got an in-depth look at the hard sciences during a specialized tour. Ford wants to major in bio chem and communications, with an eye towards becoming a physician.
They have a real good science school," he said. "One reason I like Cal is because of the sciences. They have the largest indoor learning space, and half of it's bio chem, and the other half is psychology. They have a new pre-med school, and they have all the stuff that I'm really interested in."
While Ford certainly felt the warm-and-fuzzies on the trip, he still has three more official visits to take, with Utah set for the first weekend after the lifting of the dead period, and then, two more, with the candidates being USC, Washington, Washington State and Oregon State Beavers.
Then, comes the decision, and Ford has a rubric.
"Education, for sure. I want to get my degree, no matter where I go," Ford said. "Second is going to be the environment -- is it safe, is it somewhere I want to be, even without football, is it a loving community where Ill have no worries at football and not at football? Third and final, the football program -- how good the program is."
How did Cal score?
"They hit all the marks, definitely," Ford said.