This year started out rather nicely for former Clemson head football coach Danny Ford.
It was announced on Jan. 9 that he would be inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Class of 2017, a class which includes Peyton Manning and Marshall Faulk.
The announcement came on the same day Clemson won its first national championship since 1981, when Ford was the Tigers head coach.
On Thursday, Ford visited Orangeburg to speak once again to the Orangeburg Touchdown Club in a meeting at The Cinema.
"I love coming to Orangeburg because you are just good folks," Ford said. "People here in South Carolina always seem to think that I was pretty smart and knew a little something about football.
"But, when I went out to Arkansas to coach, they didn't think I knew anything, and then we lost to SMU. Here I'm going into the Hall of Fame and SMU quit football, started over and still beat us."
Ford pointed out that it's possible to have bad years on the football field and still be a good coach with a good program. He mentioned 7 and 6-win seasons at Alabama, where he played for legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. He also mentioned some tough seasons that legendary Clemson coach Frank Howard worked through.
Having seen tough seasons and having coached Clemson to a 12-0 campaign and the national title in 1981, Ford shared some comments about the 2-5 record that South Carolina State and head coach Buddy Pough currently carry heading into Saturday's homecoming game against Howard.
"Buddy is just one good year, one good player, one good game away from turning this thing around," Ford said. "This isn't the easiest job.
"But, you look at the 30 years that South Carolina State has been in the (MEAC) conference with a conference championship at stake and these two gentlemen sitting here (Pough and Willie Jeffries) have 16 of them. You have to stop and look at the big picture. It's about winning and losing, but it's also about how your kids behave."
When asked about his thoughts on the possibility of expanding the current College Football Playoff field from a 4-team format, Ford explained that the fast pace of a college football season and the number of injuries teams endure will probably keep officials from adding teams into the playoff mix.
He also said that more college football programs are probably looking for new head coaches than the number of proven coaches who might be available at this time.
"But, if they need a coach, I'm available to either work full-time or be an intern," the 69-year-old Ford added.
Ford will be honored for his induction into the Hall of Fame on Saturday evening during pregame festivities for the Georgia Tech at Clemson football game in Death Valley. The next Tigers win will tie Dabo Swinney (95-28 record) with Ford for second-place all time at Clemson with 96 wins.
Ford coached Clemson from 1978-89 and posted a record of 96-29-4, behind only Frank Howard’s 165 wins coaching the Tigers. A native of Alabama, Ford was just 33 years, seven months and 30 days old at the time of the win over Nebraska, and he is still the youngest head coach to win college football's national championship.
Ford is one of three coaches in the 2017 Hall of Fame class, joining former Duke, Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and former Mount Union Coach Larry Kehres. The class will gather for induction on Dec. 5 in New York.
Ford is the fourth former Clemson head coach to be named to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame. The others are John Heisman, Jess Neely, and Frank Howard.
Ford was just 30 years old when he took over as Clemson head coach in December of 1978. In his first game he defeated Hall of Fame coach Woody Hayes and Ohio State, 17-15, in the 1978 Gator Bowl. In 1979 Ford coached Clemson to a 16-10 victory at Notre Dame, and he is still the second youngest visiting coach to win at Notre Dame Stadium.
Clemson had an 86-25-4 record in the 1980s. The other nine coaches in the top 10 in winning percentage in that decade are all in the Hall of Fame. Ford was 23-8-1 head-to-head as Clemson head coach against coaches who are in the Hall of Fame.
"They called me about the Hall of Fame and asked me if I had $50," Ford joked on Thursday. "So, I guess they want me to bring that so I can buy my way in."
In his 11 full years as Clemson head coach, Ford won five ACC Championships and had seven top 25 teams. He coached 21 players who earned All-American honors and had 10 former players win a combined 13 Super Bowl titles.
Prior to Ford speaking to the Orangeburg Touchdown Club on Thursday, Hunter-Kinard-Tyler's Camry James and Branchville's Jacob Delk were recognized as ATI Physical Therapy Players of the Week. Also, Calhoun Academy senior football player Val Fogle was recognized as ATI Physical Therapy Comeback Player of the Month for October.
The Orangeburg Touchdown Club will not have a meeting next week. The next meeting will be held on Thursday, Nov. 9 with former South Carolina and NFL wide receiver Sterling Sharpe as guest speaker.