Ford continues Stillwater pipeline with commitment to Oklahoma State

Jan. 20—Oklahoma State football player Braden Cassity was among the last of people Josh Ford thought he'd run into that day.

A tight end for the Stillwater High football team, Ford was in the barbershop and waiting to get a haircut when Cassity, who plays a similar position at Cowboy Back for OSU, walked in.

"I was like, 'What's going on?" Ford said. "I talked to Braden for a little bit, and he didn't know who I was, but he showed me a lot of respect. Just standing up, shaking my hand. Didn't even know who I was."

Ford announced his commitment to OSU via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, and his interaction with Cassity played a big part of him becoming the first from the Class of 2024 to pledge his commitment to the Pokes.

So did his close-quarters relationship with Mike Gundy and his staff.

Moving to Stillwater around third grade, Ford spent a lot of time playing football alongside Gundy's youngest son, Gage, who's a senior this year. It didn't hurt that Stillwater High's campus is only a mile away from Oklahoma State's, giving Ford an up-close look at what the Cowboys have done over the better part of the past decade.

"Junior year, I started to get in contact with the coaches daily and really started to get to know 'em well," Ford said. "I really liked them. I wanted them to be my coaches. I prayed about it with my parents, and we felt like it was the right decision to just go ahead and do it."

Ford's commitment makes him the latest Pioneer to become a Cowboy, with eight former Stillwater players listed on OSU's roster this past fall. He'll also join teammate and offensive lineman JaKobe Sanders, who committed to OSU in January 2022 and signed in December.

And while Ford has grown to like the Cowboys enough to dedicate his near future to them, that wasn't always the case. He grew up rooting against OSU, actually.

His dad played defensive end at Baylor. So, until they moved to Stillwater, Ford grew up rooting for the Bears. But he started to attend Cowboys games at Boone Pickens Stadium, and that's what helped him fall in love with the program.

That's in part what makes his commitment so special. He never expected to play Division I football. Now, he gets to do that with his family right down the street.

"It's unbelievable. To get this great of an opportunity, I just — it's pretty cool," Ford said. "It's crazy that this good of a college is in the same town I'm living in. I'll get to come home and see mama on the weekend."

Ford commited to the Cowboys after helping Stillwater capture the program's first state title in 55 years when the Pioneers defeated Choctaw in the Class 6A-II title game in early December.

With the Pioneers offense predicated on running the ball, Ford has grown accustomed to blocking — and capitalizing on his opportunities as a receiver. He used his junior year at Stillwater to tally 19 receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns. His efforts also helped the Pioneers rush for roughly 2,500 yards in 2022.

Gundy and Co. have recruited versatile tight ends out of the transfer portal during the 45-day window that closed on Wednesday, and Ford gives them another to develop down the road.

"Bringing back the in-line tight end is just, it gets me pumped," Ford said. "I love down blocks and running stuff from the in-line. It's really cool because we could be running two Cowboy Backs at the same time. There's a lot more use, and that gets me very excited."

Part of Ford's transformation as a player is in his size. Following his sophomore year in 2021, he weighed about 195 pounds. He could deliver some hits that year, he said, but he couldn't finish blocks.

Two weeks after that season ended, he started to eat 10 eggs every morning, relying on his family's chickens to put on weight. He continued that all of the way until the beginning of the season, when he bulked up to 235 pounds.

"Now, I'm eating an immense amount of protein and an unbelievable amount of Pb&Js," Ford said. "But 10 eggs every morning, man, that'll do it for you — and chocolate milk."

Ford possesses the toughness required to play such a position, too. In the Pioneers' semifinal win over Deer Creek, about halfway through the second quarter, he took a hit while running a screen pass.

He ripped the growth plate off of his pelvic bone, he said, leaving the bone essentially floating around in his hamstring. Initially fearing it was a career-ending injury, doctors told Ford that he'd make a full recovery.

He played in the state championship less than a week later — even springing a block on a run to set up Stillwater's game-sealing touchdown.

"I decided to have the surgery a couple days later, after the championship," Ford said. "It was just so exciting. I felt really a part of the win, and it was just great."

Ford isn't waiting until he gets on campus to start working, either. He's already started preparing to join the Cowboys this summer.

Ford said Gundy would love for him to be around 265 pounds when he arrives on campus. So, Ford is back to his old habits — the ones that got him thus far, the ones that'll carry him through his farewell tour with the Pioneers, and the ones he'll take with him to OSU.

"Well," Ford said. "Now I'm onto 12 eggs every morning."

Follow News Press sports reporter Jon Walker on Twitter @ByJonWalker for updates on Oklahoma State athletics, Stillwater High and more.