#sports | Chuck Landon: Fords are WVU football’s first family | Sports

The hyphenated last name should have been a dead giveaway.

Instead, it flew right on by.

Imagine not connecting the dots on a West Virginia University football player named Bryce Ford-Wheaton. Particularly the Ford part of his surname.

Get it? Ford as in former star Mountaineer running back Garrett Ford? Ford as in former WVU assistant coach, former academic counselor, former assistant athletic director, former associate athletic director Garrett Ford?

Or, as Ford-Wheaton affectionately calls him, “Grandpa.”

That’s right, Garrett Ford is the Mountaineers’ redshirt junior wide receiver’s 75-year-old grandfather.

“We’re really close,” said Ford-Wheaton during a recent Zoom meeting. “We’ve always been close. He’s definitely someone I’ve looked up to my whole life. I mean, he played a major role in me coming here to West Virginia. I can never thank him enough for what he’s done for me and my family.”

That’s what being a grandfather is all about. Imagine the experiences Ford can share with his grandson. Think about the guidance and advice the elder Ford can impart.

And how about getting to watch his grandson play in Mountaineer Field? It had to be a thrill for Ford to see Bryce catch 27 passes for 416 yards and three touchdowns during the 2020 season.

Besides that, imagine the anticipation of Ford-Wheaton having a breakout junior season in 2021 as the Mountaineer coaching staff expects.

It doesn’t get any better for a grandfather than that.

As it turns out, the famous WVU running back isn’t Ford-Wheaton’s only link to the Mountaineers, relatively speaking. There’s also his uncle, Garrett Ford Jr., who followed in his father’s cleats as a standout running back at WVU.

“Me and my uncle are close, too,” said Ford-Wheaton, who is from North Carolina. “In high school, he would take me to camps all across the East Coast. He would give me a lot of recruiting advice.

“He was just there for me all the time. We have a really close relationship. My family is pretty … we’re all really close.”

That includes his mother, Tracie Ford.

“I got a lot of my ability from her and her side of the family,” said Ford-Wheaton.

So, with that sort of lineage and pedigree is it any surprise Ford-Wheaton chose to play football at West Virginia University – of all places?

Actually, the surprise would have been if Ford-Wheaton had gone anywhere else.

“Honestly, they didn’t force me on anything,” said Ford-Wheaton. “They let me choose for myself. But I just thought this was the place to be.”

There’s only one aspect of football that Ford-Wheaton chose not to follow in his grandfather’s and uncle’s footsteps.

Garrett Sr. wore No. 32 while rushing for 2,166 yards in 1965-67, including a then-school record of 1,068 yards in 1966. Garrett Jr. also wore No. 32 when in 1989 he became the first WVU running back to rush for 100 yards in his Mountaineer debut.

Oh, this younger generation.

He is the first player in WVU football program history to wear No. 0. That’s right, zero. He isn’t a zero by any stretch of the imagination, he just wears one.

“Honestly, there wasn’t too much behind it,” said Ford-Wheaton. “I just wanted to wear it. I had to get out of my No. 83 because when I first came into college that was the first number they gave me.

“So, until I proved myself otherwise … there really wasn’t anything significant behind it. But I think it’s pretty cool to be the first one to wear it in program history.”

It’s even cooler to be a member of the first family of WVU football.

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