Niagara Falls’ Tre Ford first-round choice of CFL’s Edmonton Elks

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Published May 3, 2022 at 9:46 pm

Tre Ford has the chance to take his talents to a city where another pioneering Black quarterback blazed a trail many Moons ago.

The Hec Crighton Trophy-winning quarterback from Niagara Falls and the Waterloo Warriors was chosen in the first round, eighth overall by the Edmonton Elks in the Canadian Football League draft on Tuesday. Ford, who has exhibited his passing touch and pro-class speed at myriad combines and pro days in the lead-up to the pro football drafts, is also due to attend an upcoming mini-camp with the NFL’s New York Giants.

The quarterback’s twin, defensive back Tyrell Ford, was chosen five picks later. The two-time defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers chose Ford No. 13 overall.

Canadian quarterbacks have had a tough road to gain a foothold in the CFL, where most coaches and football executives are American.

The Elks’ selection marks the first time since 1980 that a quarterback has gone in the first round of the draft. Forty-two years ago, Calgary chose Sheldon Paris of Kansas State with the No. 7 pick, and Montreal took Joe Hawko from the University of Toronto with the next selection.

In 2020, though, quarterback Nathan Rourke, of Oakville, was a second-round choice in 2020 by the British Columbia Lions from Ohio University. A year earlier, Ottawa native Michael O’Connor, a QB from the University of British Columbia, was an early third-round choice by the Toronto Argonauts.

The Elks have struggled in recent seasons and finished in the CFL basement during the COVID-compacted 2021 season. They overhauled their front office this winter, bringing back head coach and general manager Chris Jones, who presided over their last Grey Cup win in 2015.

But the Edmonton franchise has a rich history that includes winning an unmatched five consecutive Grey Cup titles from 1978 to ’82. Quarterback Warren Moon, the only person to be inducted into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a player, came north to Edmonton at the start of that run after NFL teams declined to draft him and give him an opportunity to play quarterback. He became a legend on both sides of the border, helping Black passers win respect from pro football talent evaluators and the media.

After six seasons in Edmonton, Moon, of course, went to the NFL with the Houston Oilers. He tallied a combined 70,553 passing yards in both leagues. Only Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre have surpassed that total in the NFL, and only Anthony Calvillo and Damon Allen have topped it in the CFL.

In the present, Tre Ford’s new CFL organization does not appear to have a long-term answer at the all-important QB1 position on the depth chart. The Elks do not have a clear-cut No. 1 QB. They traded for quarterback Nick Arbuckle late last season. Taylor Cornelius started the majority of the games, but Edmonton sacked head coach Jaime Elizondo, who brought him to the CFL.

Ford attained plenty of firsts at Waterloo. Last fall, he became the first Black quarterback to win the Hec Crighton as the top university player in Canada. Ford also became the first player to win both national player of the year and national rookie of the year within the span of four seasons. His play was also catalytic in helping Waterloo become a credible Ontario University Athletics contender after a playoff drought of more than a decade.

Prior to the Ford brothers’ arrival, Waterloo went 0-8 in 2016 and missed the Yates Cup playoffs for the 13th consecutive season. They managed a .500 record in all four of the Fords’ seasons, ending their playoff drought in 2018.

Tre Ford ran a 4.45-second forty-yard dash, leapt 36 inches in the vertical jump, and recorded a ten-foot, five-inch broad jump during the University at Buffalo’s pro day in mid-March. By all accounts, those measurables complement his skills and smarts as a quarterback. That same day, Tyrell Ford ran a 4.44 40.

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