SPRINGFIELD — Since being selected to lead the Effingham County High School football program, John Ford has spent more time learning names and faces than teachings Xs and Os.
The process has kept him busy since he was hired Jan. 21.
Ford’s efforts to familiarize himself with his new surroundings and the people in them went into overdrive during a March 8 meet-and-greet session in the Effingham County gym lobby. He made himself available for one-on-one conversations with every member of Rebel Nation.
“I don’t want anybody to get out of here without me shaking your hand, meeting you and putting a face to a name,” he said.
Ford made one thing clear to all in attendance.
“I am blessed, honored and grateful to be standing before you as your football coach at Effingham County High School,” he said before and during his final PowerPoint presentation about the his vision and mission for the Rebels.
Ford presented his plan to establish a winning team multiple times for players, parents and boosters during the 90-minute session. He stressed other things before getting to football, however.
“I am married to Anne and she is my better half,” he said. “I have three daughters, 10, 7 and 5. They are Anna-Kate, Liza-Grace and Adeline.”
Ford then stressed another personal characteristic.
“I am not a pastor but I am a follower of Christ and I think that’s important to get out there,” he said. “I am imperfect in many ways but (my faith) is very important to me.”
A Snellville native and Clemson graduate, Ford, 40, has been a head coach before, posting a combined 61-17 mark at Buford (2017-18) and Roswell (2013-16). His last two Roswell teams finished as the Class AAAAAAA runner-up to Colquitt County and Grayson, respectively.
Ford, most recently the defensive coordinator at Bleckley County, which made its deepest playoff run since 1994 last fall, inherits a team that went 3-7 in 2020 and 2-8 the year before.
“Like I told the kids, nobody is really worried about the past,” he said. “The windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror in your car so what’s in front of you is obviously far more important than what’s behind you. That’s what I want to talk about today.”
Ford promised the audience that the Rebels will become “a championship-level football program that will improve the lives and educational experience of all the stakeholders.”
“This is an awesome community and it’s an awesome school, and I want football to be a looking glass to all the incredible things that are here ...” he said.
Ford’s goal is to get even the youngest children destined to attend Effingham County to get excited about his program. His objective is to build “a culture, a climate and a system where those kids lives are improved because they are part of it.”
One of the coach’s pillars is “building young men.”
“That’s the most important thing,” he said. “We are going to build men that are great husbands, great fathers, great employees and great employers down the road one day who are physically, mentally and morally tough. We want them to be known as more than just football players.”
After the meet-and-greet event, Ford said, “Learning the kids, their mannerisms and what they are about (have topped my agenda). The same thing goes with the coaches. I’ve been finalizing the staff.
“I’d kind of like to bring a few guys in and put the puzzle pieces together.”
Ford is working on the football puzzle while making adjustments in his personal life.
“We are probably not going to move down here until the first of June full time,” he said. “Until then, it’s just coming and going (to Cochran). I miss my family. I miss my girls That’s the hard part.”
“During the day, it’s one hundred miles an hour (at work), but I do miss bedtime, bath time and all the fun things when (my girls) are little.”