By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian
You might say Garrett W. Ford Sr. showed the way as an All-America halfback in the mid-1960s for the record-breaking by running backs who have followed him at West Virginia University since then.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Washington, D.C., native was the first Mountaineer in history to top 2,000 rushing yards in a career (in just three seasons) and also 1,000 yards in a single season.
Ford, who still lives in Morgantown, tallied 2,166 rushing yards in 1965-66-67. That was the WVU school record. It included eight 100-yard games, 20 career touchdowns and 124 career points.
His 453 career rushing attempts still ranked as the second-highest number in 1995, the year that he was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. His 235 attempts in 1966 also was a school record that stood for 30 years.
In 1966, as a junior, Ford netted 1,068 yards rushing for WVU’s best one-season aggregate up to that time. He also had become one of only three RBs to lead WVU in total offense in a season during a 35-year period.
Ford, who’s now 68, currently ranks 12th in career rushing yards all-time, 10th in career attempts, 17th in one-season yards and eighth in season rushing attempts.
He had earned All-Metro honors at DeMatha Catholic High School and attracted interest from several colleges. But Ford said he has no regrets for having selected West Virginia.
“It’s a great university and a wonderful state,” he noted. “And we couldn’t have picked a better place in which to raise our children.”
An All-America second-team selection, Ford played for coaches Gene Corum in 1965 and Jim Carlen in 1966-67. WVU was 14-13-3 during his three years as a varsity star.
After graduating, he was a third-round draft choice of the Denver Broncos in the NFL. He played two seasons with that organization before returning to WVU as an assistant on Hall of Famer Bobby Bowden’s coaching staff in 1970.
Ford has a bachelor’s degree in physical education and also a master’s degree in guidance and counseling, both from WVU.
In addition to the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, he is a member of DeMatha Catholic High’s Hall of Fame.
After retiring from coaching, Ford started the university’s counseling program for football. Eventually it was expanded to include student-athletes in all sports.
In all, Garrett Ford figures he served in varying capacities for his alma mater about 30 years. Three former head coaches, teammates and academic pupils were among 700 people at a testimonial retirement luncheon in 2011.
Garrett and wife Thelma, who were high school sweethearts, have been married for 47 years. They have two grown children, daughter Tracie and son Garrett Jr.
Both are WVU graduates. Garrett Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps, playing on the Mountaineer teams from 1989-92.
The Fords have five grandchildren – two boys and three girls.
Garrett Sr. will be remembered most by his record-setting offensive explosiveness in WVU’s 63-48 victory over Pitt as a sophomore in 1965. He also recalls a win against Syracuse when Floyd Little was its running star.
He also enjoyed playing against Pitt’s great halfbacks in particular.
“But seeing student-athletes graduate who were helped by my academic counseling program made me happiest while I was at WVU,” he declared.