SEATTLE -- Approximately 3,000 college football players are eligible for this week’s NFL draft. Only 224 of those will hear their names called. A dozen of those players spent the last couple months in Bellevue, trying to up their stock and learn from some of the best players in the league.
It was made possible by a man named Tracy Ford.
It started as a small operation but soon it springboarded. Tracy said, "Ford Sports kind of started with cones in the back of my car. Now six years later and we've had a lot of good kids come out of our program."
Tracy grew up in Federal Way. Football lead him to college where he played several positions at the University of Idaho and Portland State University. But what happened after college helped Tracy find his true calling.
"I went and trained at a facility in Arizona called Ikei Performance with Chad Ikei. He’s just a phenomenal trainer but more importantly he was a phenomenal person. He took me in when I didn’t have anything. I wanted to get ready for the NFL, I didn’t have an agent that could cover my bill, he really brought me in his family and I saw what he was able to do with the NFL Combine and that atmosphere so when I got done playing I wanted to do that.”
Tracy and training were the perfect fit. "I was always able to naturally, organically be able to motivate young men," says Tracy.
DeShawn Shead was one of those guys. The two met while at Portland State. Tracy was a senior, DeShawn a freshman.
"I remember looking at him and I said Shead you could play in the NFL and I said you got the height, the weight, the size. Let's just work."
And the training paid off. Shead signed with the Seahawks in 2012 and quickly picked up where he and Tracy left off.
"From there it kind of just skyrocketed so a lot of stuff I credit it to Shead for kind of just trusting me and having faith in me that I’m going to be able to get him right. He ended up bringing in guys like Kory Toomer, who’s out with the San Diego Chargers. Kory Toomer was really good friends with Bobby Wagner… Kory told Bobby, Bobby was in, Bobby told KJ, KJ was in."
"The biggest thing is they give back to us and that’s what I know, like some of our Vertimaxes and stuff that they bought. That was a Richard Sherman donation, that was a Bobby Wagner donation, and not small donations, you know? Those are pretty expensive machines, but they do that because they want to help the program, they believe in the program, they believe in what we are doing -- not only for them as athletes but for the other athletes in the community.”
Thanks to his professional clientele, Ford Sports Performance grew. That allowed Tracy to transform the business started out of the trunk of his car into the training grounds he'd dreamed of. He now helps athletes from all walks of life reach their potential.
2018 marks the fifth FSP draft class made up of college players from across the country that Tracy houses, trains and mentors. The only thing he asks for in return is that the athletes come back and give back to the younger players who look up to them.
Tracy also leads seven-on-seven football teams and trains high school athletes in other sports. DeShawn Shead has since signed with the Detroit Lions. He still spends his off-seasons working out with Tracy.