Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer. It’s a phrase that is often said by West Virginia alumni, and holds true in the Ford family.
Many years ago, the Mountaineers had a dynamic running back by the name of Garrett Ford Sr. Ford Sr. was the team’s starting running back and leading rusher for three seasons. He is often forgotten when conversations about West Virginia’s best backs crop up, yet he ranks 10th all-time in carries (453) and 14th in rushing yards (2,166), along with 16 rushing touchdowns. Ford Sr. played from 1965-67 and was viewed as one of the school’s first great runningbacks.
Following his time at WVU, he was drafted in the 3rd round (58th overall) by the Denver Broncos where he played one year as the team’s fullback. After his playing days, Ford returned to Morgantown to become an assistant football coach and assistant athletic director. He became the first African-American football coach in the program’s history and was later named to the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. Ford has a tremendous amount of love and passion for West Virginia University, and he is still beloved by the fan base to this day.
Garrett Ford’s son, Garrett Ford Jr., also played at West Virginia from 1989-92 and had himself a pretty solid career. He racked up 1,627 yards and 12 touchdowns on 325 carries and was part of the switch from being a Football Independent to a member of the Big East.
Now, a third generation of the Ford family will don the old gold and blue. Freshman wide receiver Bryce Wheaton is the grandson of Garrett Ford Sr. and nephew of Garrett Ford Jr.
Wheaton comes to the Mountaineers via Holly Springs high school in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. Although the West Virginia offense returns seasoned veterans at the wide receiver position, Wheaton may wiggle his way onto the field from time to time as a true freshman. Standing in at six-foot-five, he gives offensive coordinator Jake Spavital an instant red zone target. Wheaton also has top-end speed and can be used in the short and intermediate passing game as well.
Wheaton has all the intangibles to become a premier target for years to come and could very well end up being another Biletnikoff finalist for the Mountaineers. In some ways, he is reminiscent of former Mountaineer Kevin White, given his ability to go up and get 50-50 balls. If Wheaton has a similar career to that of Kevin White, it’s safe to say he will have successfully carried on the family legacy.