An already emotionally trying football season for the La Marque Cougars became so much more so Oct. 10.
While at school that Tuesday, the Coogs’ star defensive tackle Marlon Ford received the news that his mother, Sonya Renee McClure-Ford, died suddenly at just 45 years old. During a time of indescribable despair, Ford turned to his gridiron brothers for support.
“The team, they kept me motivated,” Ford said. “When I was down, they were there to pick me up. That brotherhood is so strong.”
With heavy hearts, the Coogs traveled to Hardin for a district game that Friday. Ford did his part as he has done so many times in his high school career, recording six tackles and a pass deflection in the 33-22 win. Then, Ford’s La Marque teammates rallied around him in a moving show of support and team unity.
“It means a lot. Without them, I wouldn’t be out here,” Ford said. “They all came together and tried to lift my spirits up. They told me they had my back, and when we went out on that field, I just told them to give me 100 percent effort.”
A four-year varsity player, three-year starter and multiple-time all-district selection, Ford has been even more than a team leader for the Cougars.
“Marlon, he’s our heart and soul, and I’ve said that for a long time,” La Marque head coach Mike Jackson said. “He came up (to varsity) midway through his freshman year, and he’s been a part of a lot of success here.”
Amazingly enough, the nearly 350-pound Ford has three pick-6s to his name in his career, and he’s still looking to find the end zone one last time as his senior season winds down.
“They ain’t testing me this year, they already know,” Ford said with a laugh. “Every time I try to get that read, they’ve got someone on me. … I said I would score before the end of the season. So, a fumble, strip, interception, I want to score.”
Thinking back on his own experience, Ford relishes in being a mentor for La Marque’s younger players.
“It means a lot, because I remember when I was a freshman and I was looking up to the older cats,” Ford said. “That’s what’s happened to me. Everything that happened with them, it’s like a repeat, deja vu.”
“He’s a leader, and we’re proud of him,” Jackson said. “We’re proud of him as a human being, and we’re proud of him as a football player. For what he’s gone through, it’s a tough deal.”
Ford’s personal tragedy was the latest emotional blow to a team affected by Hurricane Harvey right at the beginning of the season and whose head coach’s newborn son, Maverick, dealt with a serious medical issue.
“It’s just been a tremendously trying year for me personally and for our team,” Jackson said. “You hope through that adversity that we’ve melded together. Between his mom and Maverick and the hurricane, it’s been an unreal football season.”
Now, La Marque’s rocky regular season concludes against newfound rival Hitchcock, 7:30 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium. The Coogs will try to spoil Hitchcock’s bid for an undefeated District 12-3A-I championship and secure themselves a share of the district crown.
And once again leading La Marque into battle will be the “heart and soul” Ford.
“I approach the game like a warrior,” Ford said. “Once we put these pads on, I know my brothers have got my back. So, there’s no fear in me. I just go out there and play for them.”