Dallas Cowboys

With no NFL Combine invitation, Texas ex Poona Ford takes a different route

Former University of Texas defensive lineman Poona Ford smashed a lot of Big 12 quarterbacks last season, including Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.
Former University of Texas defensive lineman Poona Ford smashed a lot of Big 12 quarterbacks last season, including Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Special to the Star-Telegram

One in a series previewing the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington

Poona Ford started every game last season as a senior at the University of Texas, earning Big 12 defensive lineman of the year and first-team All-Big 12 honors.

But Ford knows those accolades don’t carry much weight going into the NFL and has been focused on getting as much exposure as possible early in the draft process. That’s why Ford didn’t hesitate at jumping into the Senior Bowl just days after he played in the East-West Shrine Game. It's an easy decision for a prospect who doesn’t have an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, which is Feb. 28-March 4.

“I’m really thankful to get the invite,” Ford said of the Senior Bowl. “It just gives me another opportunity to showcase my skills and put on a resume why a team should draft me.”

The knock on Ford, as it’s been the case his entire life, is his height. Ford measured in at 5-foot-11 5/8 at the Senior Bowl. However, he has a massive wingspan of 80 1/4 inches, the same as a 6-foot-8 man.

Plus, Ford has produced on the field.

Ford was impressive during one-on-one drills during Senior Bowl, and then had four tackles, a fumble recovery and sacked Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen once in the Senior Bowl game. Ford also had a sack in the East-West Shrine Game.

Those two sacks are more than what Ford had in 13 starts for the Longhorns last season. He finished with 1.5 sacks, 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one forced fumble and a blocked field goal.

Ford is projected as a mid- to late-round nose tackle. The NFL Draft is April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

How much motivation do you get from those who call you short?

“A lot, but I’ve been talking about it for so long that I just laugh about it now. But I still use that as a chip on my shoulder.”

Who do you model your game after?

“I’ve got a handful of them. Guys like Aaron Donald and Mike Daniels have paved the ways for guys like me hoping to make it in the NFL, showing that anything is possible.”

Any particular moment stand out from your college career?

“Even though we didn’t win, the USC game this year was one of the most electric games I ever played in. It was just a good experience overall.”

How tough was the coaching change, going from Charlie Strong to Tom Herman?

“I just embraced what coach Herman was saying and put my best foot forward. It was hard seeing coach Strong leave, he’s the person who got me to Texas in the first place, so it hurt a little bit to see him go. But I understand it’s a business and you can’t really get too attached to a coach. If you’re not producing, it’s going to happen.”

Do you feel like Texas is headed in the right direction?

“Yes. I know it’s in good hands and I feel like coach Herman is going to get the program back on track.”

You grew up in Hilton Head, S.C. Was Texas everything you thought as an out-of-state recruit?

“Oh yeah. I’m not regretting anything. I enjoyed my time there. I enjoyed my brotherhood with my teammates and my relationships. I wouldn’t change anything in the world.”