Ford shares induction with Clemson

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. - On the night Danny Ford enters Orange Bowl immortality, his former team will play for a chance to win the bowl that brought Clemson its only national title.

Ford's just relieved it will be the Tigers representing the ACC in this year's Orange Bowl.

"Luckily, when I accepted to do this, it looked like it was going to be Virginia Tech and everybody was going to have to come and watch Virginia Tech," he said. "I was not looking forward to watching the ball game with Virginia Tech."

Fortunately for Ford, who finished with a 96-29-4 record during his 11 seasons at Clemson, the Tigers won the ACC title game in impressive fashion over the Hokies.

"Our guys came through in the nick of time and won the championship in a game that I don't think a lot of people picked them to win," he said.

Call it good timing, fate or karma; Ford will enter the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame 30 years after winning the game.

Dabo Swinney, the current boss of the Clemson football program, and an Alabama-native like Ford, has fond memories of the 1981 Orange Bowl.

"I was 12 the last-time Clemson was here, and I do remember it because Danny Ford was the coach," Swinney said. "If you were from Alabama, everybody in that state watched this game because it was Danny Ford.

"You know, we all loved Coach Ford when he was a player at Alabama, and he's one of coach [Bear] Bryant's guys, and that's just what you did."

If there wasn't enough irony at work, Clemson's opponent in the 2012 game is West Virginia, the same team Ford beat in the 1989 Gator Bowl, his final game as the Tigers' head coach.

"There's a lot of little old similarities that people, if you're a Clemson person, would try to say, ‘Boy, that's going to make Clemson win the ball game,'" he said. "Blocking and tackling, come tomorrow night, will be what decides that -- who turns the football over.

"But it is nice to be down here and watch Clemson play."

The induction, Ford added, is an achievement he shares with others.

"It's really a great honor for not only our school, but our coaches and players," he said. "I was telling another gentleman earlier, two of our coaches on that staff have passed away -- both the coordinators, by the way, Nelson Stokley and Tom Harper. We certainly miss them. I wish they were here to be a part of it.

"I'm honored to accept it on their behalf and our players' behalf. That's the people that did it, our assistant coaches and our players, and, of course, Clemson University, because I was lucky enough to coach there."

And for many those who claim Clemson as their team, they feel lucky enough to be able to call Ford one of their own.


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