KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Listed at 6-foot-2, 252 pounds, new Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford’s physique and athletic talent led to a love of football and status as a first-round pick.
Ford more than lives up to his look as a 2013 All-Southeastern Conference first-team selection. He joins the NFL from Auburn where he recorded 93 tackles (59 solo) and 20.5 sacks, including two in last year’s BCS title game, in 52 career games (20 starts).
While he plays a violent game, it’s another passion Ford has pursued since the age of 12 that may surprise given its low-key nature.
In addition to a love of football, Ford is a pianist, and the harmonies offer an outlet from the fast-paced action of the grid iron field.
“Music is kind of like my vent just to get away,” Ford said during his introductory press conference Friday. “You know, my refuge, just to settle in and get away from everything. It can be a little charm, too, at times.”
Ford said he’s traveled with his older brother, James Jr., playing in churches and school concerts, the latter coming as a first for Ford when he was in eighth grade. And the Chiefs rookie continues to pursue playing piano even as he’s set to start his first NFL season.
Still, there shouldn’t be any worries over distractions, as James pointed out his young brother knows how to balance both areas of interest, especially since one can be pursued at any time of the year.
The new Chiefs outside linebacker agreed with his sibling.
“You can’t play football all the time,” Ford said, “but you can do music all the time because music will never go away. Music is included in just about everything, in my workouts, before a game, so music is music. I’ve always been into music and football.”
Playing an instrument requires a level of discipline. But like what he does in football, Ford possesses the mental toughness to excel when it comes to playing a tune.
And even at 12 years old, Ford developed the discipline to master his musical craft.
“Dee sat downstairs in the basement and locked himself in the room all day for like six months,” James said. “He got crazy good within a span of six months.
“It took a lot of mental toughness. I’m trying to learn the keyboard now and it’s very hard. I get frustrated because he’ll get on the keyboard and start playing it.”
Ford said one of the biggest things he took from teaching himself to play was an ability to control reactions to prevent frustration.
“You learn how to manage your emotions when learning music because it’s such a different discipline and a mental thing,” he explained. “It’s mental more than anything; it’s a mental discipline.”
He carried that approach to football where understanding assignments and maintaining lane discipline apparently became easier to absorb.
“You learn to manage your emotions and you can carry that on to the field,” Ford said of developing mental toughness from playing music. “Just the discipline itself. It’s hard to play the piano when you first start, but it gets easier.”
And when both his passions are in sync, it’s indeed a perfect tune.
“I think both of them correlate so much,” Ford said. “I can relate to any one of them.”
While Ford excels at music and rushing the passer, his brother said it’s difficult to really pick out which is the best.
That is, until pressed.
“You can’t really measure because he works hard at both,” James said of his young brother. “I think he’s probably a better pass rusher.”
For a player drafted to boost the Chiefs defense, that should be music to ears.
Notes: Ford raved about the similarities between the atmosphere at Auburn and Kansas City, citing the fans and family environment … “I just feel so at home,” Ford said … Ford graduated from Auburn in December 2013 with a degree in public administration … A confident player, Ford indicated he’s ready to get to work … “Of course I want to be a Hall of Famer,” Ford said, “but right now my short term goals are just being a teammate” … Chiefs coach Andy Reid said any players drafted over the weekend can start participating in the team’s offseason workout program on Monday.