Chicago Bears undrafted rookie running back Michael Ford was an afterthought heading into the preseason. Many considered him a candidate for the practice squad but few thought he had a realistic shot at making the team's final 53-man roster.
Then the games began and all that changed.
As both a running back and a kick returner, Ford has been outstanding. He culminated his strong preseason last week with a 15-yard touchdown run in which he bounced off three tackles en route to the end zone.
Now, most believe Ford will beat out Armando Allen, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, as the club's third running back. Ford talks with Bear Report about the preseason, his development as a player and more.
"I've got one NFL touchdown. That's about the most exciting thing I can imagine. I did keep the ball but I think I'll probably hand it over eventually to my agent. I know he wants that for his office. Then, my goal will be to get another ball from another touchdown so I can keep that one for myself.
"It's strange when you're heading for the goal line with the ball tucked under your arm. At that moment, everything feels comfortable and familiar. It's almost as if time slows down during the play. But once you're in, get the six points, and realize that you have an NFL touchdown, it's an amazing feeling. Its something I've dreamed of doing for years.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty
"During the third preseason game, I found myself getting much more relaxed. Most of the jitters have gone. Of course I still have my superstitions and my set pre-game rituals. I won't let you know what they are but they definitely work well for me. I will tell you that for me it's not a matter of simply going to the locker room, changing into my uniform and heading to the field. I have a set routine that I always follow.
"I thank the offensive line and the coaches for believing in me. They get all the credit. The O-line has been great. My job is to get the ball and run past the line, behind those big ol' guys. I'm small but the thing about that is that you can't count on size alone. No matter how big or small you are, to be effective, you have to be fast and pack a big punch. I can scatter around the bigger players on the field but I have to think all the time about where I am going, what I want to accomplish.
"There's an attitude aspect to it as well. My best yardage comes when I run angry and mean.
"When I wasn't drafted I had that moment where I was disappointed and somewhat angry, then I realized that I can show my abilities through my work. I can't thank the Bears enough for noticing me and for bringing me here. It's the opportunity I've always hoped for. I plan to maximize this chance.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the game this week at Soldier Field. My job is to get better and better each and every week. Each day I prepare through focusing on something specific, whether its running around, catching the ball or blocking. Hopefully I can go out there and do good things like I did last week. That is the kind of thing the coaches will want to see from me.
"It's fun to play in front of a hometown crowd. The positive energy is amazing. It definitely helps our players on the field. Now that I am more familiar with the stadium, it should be fun to just soak in all that great atmosphere.
"It was great being in training camp where everything is set up for us and everything is close. But now that we're home the overall vibe is better. There's something to be said for being in a place where you can settle in and being with a team where you feel you can be productive. There's no place like home.
"In the NFL it isn't what you did last week but what you plan to accomplish this week. Thinking of past glory is not going to do a thing when you are up against a new team. It's always your most recent stats that count most. I'm hoping for significant playing time this week. That's the best way to learn and to show the coaches what you can do.
"We're all aware of the cuts this week but I try to put that out of my mind. At the end of the day you can't worry about things outside of your control. If you go out there and give it your all in practice and play well in games, then the ultimate decision is out of your hands. You've given your best and that's all anybody can ask for. You just have to let the chips fall."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.