The Vikings have their share of players who have ties to Florida. Six players are native Floridians – Teddy Bridgewater, Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph, Josh Robinson, Blair Walsh and Jabari Price. They also have six players who played their college ball in Florida – Rhodes and Ponder at Florida State, Floyd and Justin Trattou at the University of Florida and Robinson at Florida State.
But for Vikings tight end Chase Ford, it will truly be a homecoming. He will be making his return to the Coral Gables neighborhood where he played for the Miami Hurricanes, who share Sun Life Stadium with the Vikings’ opponent Sunday – the Miami Dolphins.
While Ford will literally be playing in his college backyard, he isn’t expecting to run into a lot of his friends or college teammates. It’s a business trip that won’t allow for much in the way of reminiscing or enjoying the Miami nightlife. Asked if he thought he would have a chance to catch up with some of his old buddies, Ford said his homecoming will likely be centered more on reminiscing about the weather, not good times with his peeps.
“Probably not, because when we get in there, we’ve got meetings most of that night,” Ford said. “I will say this: I’m looking forward to the sun and the warm weather.”
Ford has happy memories of his two seasons (2010-11) at The U, but coming back to his old stomping grounds is something he’s looking forward to – not so much returning to a stadium he enjoyed playing at, but the aesthetics surrounding the game.
“I’m looking forward to going there and getting a win,” Ford said. “That’s the number one thing, but there will be nice weather. It won’t be snowing. It won’t be 20 degrees. Those will be plusses too. I was definitely glad this game wasn’t a home a game, I’ll tell you that. It’s good to go back to Miami. Being in Miami, I rooted for the Dolphins when I was there and it will be good to get out on the field with some of my old teammates (from The U).”
His experience in Miami was primarily centralized in Coral Gables, a community made up significantly of retirees who have relocated to the area. Miami is a crazy town, known for its high crime rate. The nearby suburb of Opa-locka – a strange community that, following a devastating hurricane, was rebuilt with an architectural theme of “One Thousand and One Nights” Arabian theme – like Aladdin come to life. Unfortunately, like much of the surrounding communities, crime is rampant. Opa-locka consistently ranks among the highest violent crime rates for any city in the country, which is a far cry from the serenity of Coral Gables, which many compare to a gated community.
“I wouldn’t say it’s gated, but it’s about 10 minutes south of downtown Miami,” Ford said. “It’s more of a quiet, not as rambunctious, slower lifestyle than it is in Miami. It’s the opposite of Opa-locka. Miami is a great place – from Coral Gables to Opa-locka – they’ve got everything. That’s the cool thing. That’s why I liked it so much when I was down there.”
The diversity and culture of Miami was an eye-opener for a kid from Texas who was a JUCO recruit by the Hurricanes. It was a transition time for him that he remembers fondly, with one exception – not winning enough games.
“It was a good experience,” Ford said. “I just wish we had got more wins and did better for (head coaches Randy) Shannon and (Al) Golden while we were there. But it was fun while I was there.”
What he hopes to do on his weekend business trip to his alma mater is to come away with a win – something that was hard to come by. For a program that didn’t tolerate losing, when the Hurricanes finished 7-6 in 2010, Shannon was fired and replaced by Golden. In Ford’s senior year, Miami went 6-6. At 6-8 with the Vikings, he’s feeling a sense of déjà vu. As someone who doesn’t like losing, he’s seen enough of it and, pleasant weather or not, the work end of his trip south will take precedence.
“To me, I have to look at it as just another game,” Ford said. “I’m juiced because this year has been so up and down with us being so close on everything. I just want to win. I wish we would have beaten Detroit so we could end the year with a four- or five-game winning streak. I’m tired of losing. It seems like I’ve been around 8-8 my whole life. I don’t care if it’s in Miami or Texas or wherever, I just want to win and that’s my plan when we head down there this weekend.”
Ford returns to alma mater hungry for win
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