Hilton Head Island High defensive tackle Poona Ford finally made his college intentions known Tuesday night, as the rising senior committed to Louisville over a host of other schools, including South Carolina.
Seahawks coach B.J. Payne knows Ford's decision to spurn the in-state Gamecocks will cause a stir with the South Carolina fanbase. His commitment to the Cardinals is no different than the host of other prospects every year who opt to travel a different route than the in-state school.
Here's what Payne had to say about Ford's ensuing commitment to Louisville on Monday afternoon. The second-year Seahawks coach touched on several other topics too, which can also be read below.
"You'll never find anyone in this school say a bad word about him or anything. That's the part that's tough for me as a coach, because of the fact that he's such a great kid and he made a decision on his own, with his family, that was the best decision for him. And there are going to be people who take shots at him. There are going to be people who take shots at him because they haven't seen the big picture, they haven't been through recruiting the whole time, and it's not fair. Because you can't find anybody in this school -- teachers, students, administrators -- or anybody in this district or anybody on this island who could ever say a bad thing about that kid. But there are going to be people who take shots because he didn't go to the school they're an alum of or didn't go to the school they support. And it's going to happen. But it's not fair to that kid, because he does everything right. Absolutely everything.
"He's a Division I kid, the most recruited kid in our school's history in any sport, probably including Wayne Simmons, and in two years he's never missed a fundraiser we've had. He's never missed a workout we've had. He's never missed anything. Usually those kids don't show up. Let the guys who don't play work the fundraiser. He's never missed one thing."
Payne credited Michael Julian's recruitment a season ago as one of the biggest factors in Ford bursting on the scene. The signal-caller signed with Toledo over offers from Arizona, Clemson and others.
"The greatest thing for Poona was Michael Julian, because coaches were down here to see Michael and went, 'Oh, who's that?" " ... For our other seniors this year, who are still looking, it's going to help them. For our younger kids, the schools that are coming in to see Poona are going to see our younger kids and what they have the ability to do.
"I know of some schools that will still come in, try to recruit him and try to do everything. During that process they're going to see our younger kids."
Will Ford's decision to commit before the 2013 season have an effect on his performance this season for the Seahawks? The answer to that is a resounding no, Payne said.
"It's not going to change him. I've seen kids before who committed and it changes them because they're worried about that next year and not worried about the task at hand. ... I'm happy for him. I'm happy for his family."
As for the Cardinals, Payne believes Ford has found the perfect fit. Payne said his defensive tackle has recently measured a 34-inch vertical leap, ran a 4.8 40-yard dash and has an 80-inch wingspan.
"It's a great fit for him. They did a great job recruiting him. I'm not saying anybody else didn't, but they did a great job recruiting him. When he went there for a visit he was there all day. ... I'm talking all day. He was on campus and in the facilities. He sat with coach (Charlie) Strong for three hours. Coach Strong was with him the whole day.
"The bottom line is he's an absolute incredible kid who made a decision based on what he felt was the right fit for him. I don't care where our kids go to school. I always tell them to find the right fit for you and then go from there, whether that fit is football, financially or education. That's the way I've always been. Whether that choice would have been South Carolina, Clemson, Louiville, Purdue, Kansas State, wherever. As long as it was the right fit for him."