When Auburn's updated roster was released Thursday, it noted a change in the starting defensive end's jersey number, from 95 to 30. It wasn't a decision Ford made on a whim. No, it was a calculated move, something he had been planning for months.
Being viewed as one of the leaders of the Tigers this season made him think back to his days at St. Clair County High in Odenville when he was held in similar regard among his teammates.
"I was the guy — the guy — to lead the team," he said. "Whatever I did affected the whole team, negatively or positively. So I was that guy, and I've kind of become that guy now."
Whereas his old number, 95, was seen as more of a "role player," putting on No. 30 means the Tigers will expect Ford to play at a high level in every drill, practice and game this fall.
"And 'it's a new day,'" said Ford, invoking the team's mantra since Gus Malzahn took over as head coach. "So even though it's an old number, I feel that psychologically, I'm reminding myself, 'Hey, you're a new guy now.' Everything you do will affect the team, negatively or positively, whether I like it or not.
Ford won't have the number by himself, though. He'll be sharing No. 30 with fellow senior Steven Clark, a two-time Ray Guy Award semifinalist. When informed of Ford's move, Clark smiled.
"He better make me proud then," Clark said. "I mean I was wearing it first, right?"
Ford has no intentions of not living up to Clark's — or more importantly, his own — expectations this season. After collecting a team-high six sacks in 2012, people may think Ford already has a specific number in mind for this season.
And those people would be wrong.
He prefers to perform daily critiques of himself, and let the sack total take care of itself.
"I'm 10 times better than I was last year as a pass-rusher, so that's all you can do at this point," he said. "Just keep getting better and better. I'm not putting a number on it. I'm trying to get as many as I can."
Ford won't be the only member of the defensive line sporting the same jersey number as a teammate, however. True freshman Montravius Adams arrived on campus with his eyes set on No. 1. The only problem was, receiver Trovon Reed had already staked his claim to the digit.
Adams approached Reed to try to get his elder's blessing to wear the number. Reed said "everything in me" was telling him to turn the freshman down.
But the first-year defensive tackle eventually won him over with a personal story that resonated with the junior wide receiver.
"I told him, 'I ain’t going to be here too much longer,'" Reed said. "He had a great story about how he wanted No.1, so I just had to respect him and tell him it’s cool."
Reed's reluctance to share the number is understandable — the No. 1 means everything to him. It's the number his late mother put him in when he first took up the sport, and he's worn it proudly ever since.
"After my mom died I told my family, 'No matter where I go if I can’t get No. 1, I’m not going there,'" he said. "(Former Auburn) Coach (Gene) Chizik made that promise to me and he stuck with it."
Reed isn't the only one with No. 1 across his chest and on his back anymore. And he's fine with that.
"I can’t even be mad," he said, noting how the No. 1 looks stretched across Adams' 6-foot-5, 300-pound frame. "When I see it on him it just looks like a little strip of tape."
While Reed has made his peace with sharing the number, he rested easy knowing at least one part of his on-field identity was safe from Adams' reach.
They won't be confused for each other on punt return duties any time soon.
"He’s too big for that," Reed said. "He’ll be sacking quarterbacks."