Chiefs’ Ford cred­its come­back to co­conuts

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Brooke Pryor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A cou­ple of hours be­fore the Kansas City Chiefs headed to Cen­tu­ryLink Field, Justin Hous­ton walked down the hall­way of the team’s Seat­tle ho­tel in search of a blender to fix a pregame shake.

He stopped when he came to Dee Ford’s room and knocked.

When Ford opened the door and let him in, Hous­ton found what he was look­ing for. And a whole lot more.

Yes, there was a blender. There were also co­conuts, leafy greens and berries. And a knife.

“I didn’t know he had all that other stuff in there,” Hous­ton said with a chuckle. “It was my first time see­ing that.”

While Hous­ton dumped the in­gre­di­ents of his soon-to-be shake into the blender his team­mate brings ev­ery­where, Ford, 27, picked up a co­conut and the knife. With the same strat­egy he’s used all sea­son, he deftly cracked open one of the brown, hairy orbs. And then he showed Hous­ton how to do the same with an­other.

Then the pair poured the liq­uid con­tents into a cou­ple of cups and drank it.

“He was only there to use my blender,” Ford said. “He blended up his stuff, and I showed him the co­conuts, and be­fore you know it, we’re open­ing co­conuts.”

Ev­ery­thing Ford does is in­ten­tional, and this was no ex­cep­tion. Known for clean eat­ing, Ford pur­posely added the trop­i­cal fruit to his pregame snacks that week­end be­cause co­conuts pro­vide ex­tra hy­dra­tion. And be­cause he read Tom Brady’s book re­cently and the New Eng­land quar­ter­back rec­om­mended them.

“He’s very big on co­conuts, too,” Ford said. “Co­conuts, not co­conut wa­ter. It’s dif­fer­ent.”

Ford’s been health con­scious since he was a teenager. But now, healthy eat­ing isn’t just a fun hobby. For Ford, who missed the fi­nal games of the 2017 sea­son with a back in­jury, his diet has been the dif­fer­ence be­tween an early re­tire­ment and a 2018 Pro Bowl sea­son.

“At this point in my ca­reer, for any of us, you sur­vive with your diet,” Ford said. “With your work­ing out and your diet and your habits, that’s how you sur­vive. I’ve been playing foot­ball for a long time. So that’s the only way you sur­vive, es­pe­cially the past five years.”

To solely credit Ford’s diet

as be­ing the thing that got him to this place, to the di­vi­sional round of the play­offs after com­plet­ing the best reg­u­lar sea­son of his NFL ca­reer, would be un­fair.

It would dis­count all of the hours of hard work and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion that went into his re­cov­ery from back surgery in Jan­uary 2018.

But, Ford said, the role his diet played was un­de­ni­ably im­por­tant.

“Things hap­pen that you can’t con­trol, but your abil­ity to bounce back from those things is so cru­cial,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been able to come back from ev­ery surgery that I’ve had. And re­ally im­prove from be­fore the surgery.”

Placed on in­jured re­serve in De­cem­ber 2017 after playing in just six games that year, Ford had surgery in the off­sea­son and needed close to six months to re­cover.

Fol­low­ing that cur­tailed sea­son, Ford played in all 16 reg­u­lar-sea­son games this year — his first com­plete sea­son since his rookie year — and earned his first Pro Bowl nod. He reg­is­tered 55 tack­les (42 solo) in the reg­u­lar sea­son, but more im­pres­sively, he recorded a ca­reer­high 13 sacks to best his old record of 10 in 2016.

And after miss­ing last year’s play­off game, Ford will be a cru­cial piece of a de­fen­sive game plan de­signed to thwart an im­pos­ing In­di­anapo­lis Colts of­fen­sive line that gives up the fewest sacks in the NFL.

This year wasn’t the first time Ford had to work through a back in­jury. In 2011, Ford had to take a med­i­cal red­shirt after un­der­go­ing surgery for a her­ni­ated disc in his lower back.

Each time he’s had surgery, Ford has re­cov­ered to come back stronger. After the 2011 surgery, Ford closed out his Auburn ca­reer with 16 sacks and 25 quar­ter­back hur­ries over his fi­nal two sea­sons.

“It all works hand-in­hand,” he said. “It just so hap­pens that our job is to be healthy and have en­ergy and be ef­fi­cient. That’s our job. The more that you can un­der­stand how to get those things go­ing, how to ex­e­cute that, what you need to do, the bet­ter off you’re go­ing to be. The health­ier you’re go­ing to be. The bet­ter you’re go­ing to feel. It helps ev­ery­thing whole­sale as far as my ap­proach.

“My thoughts are al­ways clearer. I al­ways have en­ergy. I have ups and downs, but most of them are ups. I know what to do to get back. And it does, it ties into my health.”

Like Hous­ton, fel­low Chiefs pass rusher Chris Jones first found out about Ford’s eat­ing habits when he walked into his room ear­lier this sea­son.

En­ter­ing Ford’s dorm room at train­ing camp in St. Joseph in late July, Jones quickly saw that Ford’s stock­pile of snacks was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from the food he had stored in his own room.

“You know a guy like me, I have a cou­ple snacks here and there, cou­ple bags of potato chips, like 12 or 13,” Jones said. “Dee had like 30 bot­tles of veg­gie milk or some­thing like that. I’m like, ‘Dee, it’s gonna spoil. It’s gonna spoil.’ He was like, ‘Nah, I’m gonna drink it be­fore it spoils.’

“Dee does some weird stuff.”

Away from camp, Jones still sees Ford eat­ing and drink­ing things he’d rather avoid, like a cup of spinach, nuts and wa­ter for break­fast.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Jones said. “But me per­son­ally, I have to have a va­ri­ety of things. I see him walk­ing around here with all that weird stuff.’

Though some of his team­mates have been slow to catch on to Ford’s diet, it’s some­thing he first started work­ing on when he was a scrawny 10th grader in Odenville, Alabama.

Back then, Ford was a far cry from the 6-2, 252-pound phys­i­cal spec­i­men he is today. He wanted to bulk up, but he wanted to do it the right way.

“My thing was,” he said, “I didn’t want to get fat.”

So he read dozens of books and con­sulted body­builders be­fore de­cid­ing to sup­ple­ment his diet with health shakes.

“In high school, it wasn’t as ef­fi­cient as I was now,” he said. “I was pretty much eat­ing what I could get my hands on. I got more health­ier to­ward col­lege. I drank a lot of wa­ter. I un­der­stood veg­eta­bles and all of that.”

Once he got to Auburn, Ford worked with the foot­ball staff’s strength and con­di­tion­ing coaches to de­vise a more stream­lined plan to help him main­tain his op­ti­mum weight.

As he got older, Ford got his diet down to a sci­ence. He con­sumes small meals when he’s at the Chiefs’ prac­tice fa­cil­ity, mainly stick­ing to shakes and other small snacks de­signed to give him a healthy dose of en­ergy.

“I’m mov­ing when I’m here,” Ford said. “You don’t want to eat big meals. You won’t be able to func­tion. I pretty much have timed things up.”

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