ALBANY — There is no relation between University at Albany women’s basketball freshman Julie Ford and the school’s former football coach Bob Ford.
But there is a similarity between the two besides their shared last name — and that would be a fondness for the gridiron.
While Bob Ford coached the Great Danes’ football program for decades, Julie Ford was a varsity football player for Cooperstown as a high school student. Besides starring for four varsity basketball seasons, Ford played varsity football for three seasons after convincing her parents to let her play the game after spending her ninth-grade year playing soccer.
“Finally, they gave in during my sophomore year,” said a smiling Ford, who played wide receiver and defensive back.
Now, Ford is a freshman perimeter player for a UAlbany program looking to rebuild with new head coach Colleen Mullen. The 6-foot-1 Ford is one of the team’s younger players it could look to take minutes.
“Julie’s a unique athlete,” said Mullen, whose team starts its 2018-19 season Nov. 9 at South Florida. “She can jump out of the gym and really finish around the basket. She also has a tremendous motor, and, as a coach, you always want to be calming players down rather than speeding them up.”
Ford’s athleticism is likely her top attribute as a rookie college athlete. In high school, besides playing on the gridiron and the hardwood, she was also a standout track and field athlete in jumping events.
Ford ended up at UAlbany after a relatively lengthy recruitment. She ended up picking UAlbany over schools such as Hofstra and Vermont because of a desire to stay closer to home.
“I’m very family-oriented,” Ford said. “It was huge for me to be able to be comfortable here.”
Ford said she developed a close relationship with former UAlbany head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee — now at Boston College — and her coaching staff, but hadn’t considered changing her commitment to play for the Great Danes when the school’s previous coaches left.
“That was hard to deal with, but the adjustment has been easy,” Ford said. “Our coaching staff now is awesome.”
Through the first couple weeks of preseason practices, Mullen has tried out different lineups. She is still working toward figuring out a rotation, but said that’s because the roster has enough talent that lineup decisions are not easy to make.
“That’s definitely still to come,” Mullen said. “The great thing is it’s a good problem to have. We have a lot of different threats and we feel very balanced. It’s not often a coach feels a team is passing too much, but we’re almost too good of a passing team right now. Everyone is trying to make each other better.”
Ford said the Great Danes’ small roster has helped her adjust to the college game.
“Our energy has to stay high because we have less girls than most other teams,” said Ford, one of 11 Great Danes this season. “But we’re always on the court and always working.”
Mullen said that Ford is a player she sees as having “tremendous upside” for UAlbany. Ford’s adjustment to the speed and physicality of the college game, Mullen said, is probably helped along with her experience playing football in high school.
“I can’t even understand what that would be like,” Mullen said. “But I just know it takes a tremendous amount of toughness, grit and resilience.”