Seahawks rookie defensive tackle Poona Ford went undrafted in 2018 and was a long shot to make the roster in training camp. After posting six tackles and three tackles for loss against the 49ers, he'll be a defensive line mainstay during Seattle's playoff push.
Poona Ford rubbed his belly and fulfilled a promise along the way.
Before he was a rising rookie defensive tackle for the Seahawks, the 5-foot-11, 310-pound Ford was the 2017 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year at Texas. And while he was there, Ford lived with teammate and fellow UT defensive tackle Chris Nelson.
In his senior season in Austin, Texas, this fall, the 297-pound Nelson rubbed his belly after each impactful play.
More than 2,000 miles away, Ford was watching … and he was inspired.
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“He had his senior season and I saw him do it,” Ford said with a smile on Wednesday. “I was like, ‘The next time I get a chance to do it, I’m going to do it.’”
The former undrafted free agent was granted that chance on Sunday, when he exploded for a career-high six tackles and three tackles for loss on the road at San Francisco. In overtime, Ford disengaged from the center, burst through the line of scrimmage and wrecked running back Matt Breida for a five-yard loss.
Then came the belly rub heard ‘round the world — especially in Austin, Texas.
“I called (Nelson after the game),” Ford said. “I told him, ‘I told you I would do it for you one time.’ I ended up doing it twice.”
He’ll likely have a lot more opportunities to do it in the future. Ford — who has recorded 15 tackles in nine games this season — was a longshot to make the team in training camp.
Now he may be starting for the Seahawks on Sunday and beyond as the team targets a playoff run.
“He’s been really aggressive,” head coach Pete Carroll said on Wednesday. “He’s shown really good instincts to get a feel for taking advantage and making plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He’s going to get some more playing time.”
Added Seahawks defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.: “When he’s out there, you know he’s out there. When he’s out there you know he’s going to run somebody down, jump in the gap and make some plays.”
Then you know he’s going to rub his belly.
The Seahawks’ most pleasant rookie surprise is hungry. Finally, it’s time to eat.
“I just needed to keep my head on the right path and not let it get the best of me,” Ford said of his 2018 draft snub. “I knew I was going to get the opportunity and that’s all I needed at the end of the day.”