Full circle: Saskatchewan Roughriders draft grandson of former general manager Al Ford

Photos courtesy: Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame & Piper Sports Photography/Regina Rams. Photo edit: 3DownNation.

Life came full circle for Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day on Tuesday when he selected defensive back Jaxon Ford out of the University of Regina in the second round of the 2023 CFL Draft.

In 1999, O’Day signed with the Riders following a two-year stint with the Toronto Argonauts. Saskatchewan’s general manager at the time was Al Ford, who also happens to be Jaxon’s grandfather.

“That didn’t have any influence on the pick, I promise,” said O’Day with a laugh just moments after making the pick. “We didn’t pick [Jaxon] because he was [Alan Ford’s] grandson, we picked him because he’s a heck of a football player.”

Despite being 57 years apart in age, the Fords share a number of similarities on the gridiron including impressive versatility. Before he entered Saskatchewan’s front office, Al was a defensive back who could punt and return kicks, while Jaxon is a defensive back who can also play on special teams. Both have worn the No. 21 and both agree they understand the game in similar ways.

Jaxon was born in 2000, the year after Al’s decade-long tenure as Saskatchewan’s general manager came to an end. He credits time spent watching CFL games with his grandfather for cultivating his love of the sport.

“Going over there for every single game and watching with him,” said Jaxon. “My earliest Rider memory would be probably my first game at the old stadium sitting with my grandpa. He had season tickets.”

Jaxon has wanted to play for the Roughriders since he was nine years old, two years before a family tragedy cemented the bond between grandfather and grandson. In 2011, Robbie Ford, Al’s son and Jaxon’s father, tragically passed away.

“We kind of gravitated together because of the same interests and I was able to take him under my wing a little bit as a grandson,” said Al when reached at his Regina home moments after Jaxon was drafted.

Al’s wife Sally said she was “hyperventilating” with joy when the Riders took her grandson and the Fords don’t seem worried about the inevitable comparisons of Al and Jaxon.

“I’ve been gone from there so long that most people don’t remember (my playing) career,” said Al. “I think he’s going to stand on his own two feet and he’ll make a name for himself doing the things that he does really well because he’s a way better athlete and better trained.”

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.