Waterloo DB Tyrell Ford prepared to beat Hec Crighton-winning brother in the forty and on CFL field

Everybody involved in Canadian football knows the name of Hec Crighton-winning quarterback Tre Ford, but in the eyes of his sibling Tyrell, he’ll always be the little brother.

The dynamic defensive back says it with something of a glimmer in his eye and a wry smile, a friendly jab at the twin brother with whom he’s competed his whole life but who has hogged a little more of the spotlight as of late. Tre may have claimed the highest individual honour in Canadian university football, but he was just a few moments faster getting here.

Consider it a victory for Tyrell in the first of many races between the two. You can bet they’re keeping score.

Soon, that friendly competition may reach an entirely new level of intensity. After almost two decades of wearing the same uniform at every level from minor football to the University of Waterloo, the twins are both coveted prospects in the 2022 CFL Draft. While it isn’t impossible that they’ll enter the professional ranks on the same team, the odds are not in their favour.

“Since we were six years old, there was only one time we weren’t on the same team and it was in a touch league when we were younger,” Tyrell recalled, uncharacteristically forgetting who won that matchup.

“It would obviously be awesome to play with my brother at the next level, but I think it’s very unlikely, so I don’t try to put too much thought into it. I just know when we’ve gotta play him, I’m ready — that’s it.”

In some ways, the alternative may be preferable. While the bond between brothers runs incredibly deep, both Ford’s have reached a stage in their life where they are spreading their own wings. Even while they go through the draft process together, Tre as the CFL’s sixth-ranked prospect and Tyrell as the ninth, the older of the two makes clear that they aren’t approaching it as a monolith.

“He’s not my roommate right now, he lives with his girlfriend, I live with my girlfriend back home,” he explained. “It’s nice having a brother specifically in it, but we’re definitely two different people and we’ve both been preparing for it.”

That’s not to say the pair aren’t close, as dual-sport athletes in track and football they spend as many as three practices a day training together and sharing their journey towards the CFL. But growth often comes alone, as Tyrell learned over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Living apart in different cities during lockdown, each had to find their own way to stay in shape. For Tyrell, there was a makeshift gym in the basement and a park down the street, where he pushed himself to get in the best shape of his life.

“I would go there by myself, run forties, do drills and everything like that. Over COVID I definitely started working out a lot more consistently, which also helped. I went from 180 pounds to about 200 and I got a lot stronger. In my bench press, I was doing like seven reps and then I came back and tested and I got 15 or 16,” he said, noting that he trimmed down slightly before the season to gain back some speed.

“I feel powerful, smooth, fas and it’s just the best I’ve felt.”

Tyrell proved it on the field by earning his third OUA all-star honour and was named second team All-Canadian for the second time in his career, cementing his status as one of the best cover corners in Canadian university football. Opponents simply opted not to throw his way, a lesson his brother may soon have to learn.

Unlike most twins bound for the CFL, the Ford brothers play competing positions. The two may end up on the field at the same time going against one another and when asked which sibling would record a major statistic at the expense of the other first, Tyrell could only laugh.

“I get an interception first, probably for six because I don’t think he can tackle me either,” he grinned. “I’m just saying his whole career, I don’t think he’s thrown a touchdown on me. It’s not a matter of first, it’s just not gonna happen, I’ll be ready and he knows better.”

With rookie Canadian corners and quarterbacks rarely seeing the field early, that scenario may be a few years away, but the brothers will have bragging rights on the line much sooner.

As bonafide track stars in the OUA, both are expected to rip up the CFL’s National Combine on March 28 in Toronto. Asked what he expected to run in the much-publicized forty-yard dash, Tyrell played coy but provided on important indicator of his potential success.

“We did have a practice combine the other day and I don’t want to jinx anything or say anything crazy, but I will say I ran a very, very good time and it was faster than Tre’s,” he smiled.

The older brother’s edge may have been whittled down from minutes at birth into fractions of a second at the line, but the victory is still worth just as much.

Abbott is a UBC student, youth coach and lifelong CFL fanatic. He specializes in coverage of the CFL draft and the league's global initiative.