It took ten weeks for Canadian quarterback Tre Ford to get his first start with the Edmonton Elks this season and the highly anticipated debut showed signs of promise despite resulting in yet another loss for the franchise.
Though the Elks lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers by a score of 38-29, Ford breathed life into a previously struggling offence. He completed 75 percent of his passes for 189 yards with one touchdown and one interception as well as five carries for 50 yards and a major along the ground.
“I felt really good,” said Ford of his first start of the season. “I feel like the game has slowed down for me this year.”
The appearance made the Niagara Falls native the first Canadian quarterback to start in back-to-back seasons for Edmonton since Frank Cosentino in 1968.
“I just want to prove that Canadians can play with Americans,” said Ford. “And especially doing it at the quarterback position is a kind of next level, there are not a lot of people that have done that.”
And while the former Waterloo Warrior waited to check off this historical moment on the field as teammates Taylor Cornelius and Jarret Doege took their shots at starter in weeks prior, Ford said his focus was on watching film.
“I did benefit from it. I feel like I’m much further mentally than last year.”
Elks fans, however, were focused on sharing their eagerness for him to get a turn as a starter. Many took to social media to share posts with the hashtag #FreeTreFord in hopes of change as their team has yet to claim a win in 2023.
Though Ford indicated he is not very active online, he did see some of the encouraging messages.
“It was cool that the fans were kind of like, ‘Well, what happened to this guy? Where is he?'” said Ford. “I’m thankful to have their support and get the opportunity to finally be back on the field playing again.”
Finally, after the Elks’ first practice back from a Week 9 bye, Ford was informed that he would at last get his long-awaited chance. He quickly shared the news with his family, who were excited on his behalf.
Ford said he speaks to his brother Tyrell on the phone every day as his twin is also embracing an exciting opportunity on the field, hoping to solidify a spot down south this NFL preseason with the Green Bay Packers.
“I think he has a good chance. I mean, I thought he played pretty well in the opportunities that he was given.”
Up north, however, one of Ford’s biggest challenges at this point of the season is time. According to him, he only had a little over three weeks to solidify his chemistry with the Elks’ offence but remains hopeful.
“I wasn’t really throwing to them for the first eight weeks, which is kind of a long time,” said Ford. “I don’t think we’re on the perfect page, but we’re definitely getting closer. We just got to practice and work at it.”
Fortunately for him, the 25-year-old is surrounded by veterans in the locker room who can help when needed.
“Geno [Lewis] provides a lot of a lot of knowledge and so does Manny [Arceneaux],” said Ford. “The things Manny talks about are not even always football. He just has a good view on life and anytime you can get his insight, I think it’s valuable.”
Another point of guidance for Ford is Jarious Jackson, a former CFL passer who also embraced a new position in Week 10 after being promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Jackson took over in place of Stephen McAdoo, who was subsequently tasked with other responsibilities for the Elks.
“It’s just a lot easier to communicate and be on the same page as [Jackson] because he’s played the position, he kind of understands what’s going on,” said Ford. “I feel like he’s tailoring the offence more to my strengths as a quarterback.”
Changes on and off the field have been seemingly nonstop for the Elks as they strive to break a 13-game losing streak that dates back to last season. Other moves within the organization include the unexpected departure of president Victor Cui, who joined the club in 2022. Still, Ford said he doesn’t let any of those things affect him.
“I just try to worry about what I can control,” said Ford. “I can’t control all the stuff that’s going on above my head, so I’m just focused on the Xs and Os and going out there and playing.”
In Week 11, the Elks will take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the second time this season at Tim Hortons Field.
“I haven’t had a road game as a starter this year,” said Ford, who won his first career start in Hamilton last season. “I still think we’re going to be able to prepare pretty well mentally, I feel super good with the playbook this week going in.”