Tre Ford expects to have chip on his shoulder this season with Edmonton Elks

Edmonton Elks quarterback Tre Ford (2) runs the ball as B.C. Lions' Mathieu Betts (90) and Woody Baron (58) chase during first half CFL action in Edmonton on Friday, September 22, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken

He made Edmonton Elks fans forget about a dismal 0-9 start and dubious 22-game home losing streak last season. But when Canadian quarterback Tre Ford reports to training camp in May, it will be to compete as newcomer McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s backup.

“It is what it is, it’s pro football and I can’t control anything that I can’t control,” Ford told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“I’m just going to learn as much as I can this year and do the best I can to help the team win any way I can.”

Edmonton Elks quarterback Tre Ford (2) throws against Saskatchewan Roughriders during the first half of CFL football action in Regina, on Friday, September 15, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

Ford, of Niagara Falls, Ont., was a bright spot last season for Edmonton (4-14). He led the Elks to all of their regular-season wins after becoming the starter – including a 24-10 decision in Hamilton on Aug. 17 that halted the club-worst 0-9 start, which included two shutout losses.

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The following week, Ford threw for 317 yards and a touchdown while running for 74 yards and a TD in a 30-20 victory over Ottawa at Commonwealth Stadium that snapped a woeful CFL-record 22-game home losing streak.

The ’21 Hec Crighton Trophy winner completed 153-of-227 passes (67.4 per cent) for 2,069 yards with 12 TDs and just six interceptions while rushing for 622 yards (9.4-yard average) and three touchdowns last season. More importantly, his dynamic skillset and athleticism gave Edmonton supporters hope for a franchise that was coming off consecutive 4-14 campaigns and last reached the CFL playoffs in 2019.

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But in January, the Elks signed veteran Bethel-Thompson — a two-time Grey Cup champion over five seasons with the Toronto Argonauts — to a one-year deal reportedly worth $500,000 with incentives. Head coach/GM Chris Jones said while Bethel-Thompson was added to be the starter, Ford was still in Edmonton’s plans.

Edmonton selected Ford in the first round, eighth overall, of the ’22 CFL draft. The former Waterloo star could become a free agent in 2025 but was very clear he’s not looking that far ahead.

“I’m just going to go control what I can this year and see how everything plays out,” he said. “The world is a mystery.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Elks reflect on disappointing season and look ahead to a better year to come'
Edmonton Elks reflect on disappointing season and look ahead to a better year to come

Bethel-Thompson, 35, spent last season with the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers. The six-foot-four, 220-pound San Francisco native is certainly a pro football veteran, having also spent time with multiple teams in the NFL, CFL and Arena Football League.

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Upon signing with Edmonton, Bethel-Thompson expressed his desire to work with and mentor Ford. The feeling is mutual.

“I think there’s plenty to be learned,” Ford said. “He definitely has a lot of football knowledge and so just learning his study habits, how he reads defences and the different things he does are what I’m going to try to take in.”

Ford said his position on Edmonton’s depth chart won’t change his approach once camp begins.

“I’m always going to prepare as if I’m the starter regardless,” he said. “I know he’s probably projected going in as the starter and No. 1 guy in their minds, which is completely fine because it’s their decision to make.

“He’s another guy at training camp. We’ve all got to go out and compete.”

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Private group of former players hope to buy the Edmonton Elks football team

These days, Ford has more on his plate than just football. He and his wife, Anika, have a 15-month-old daughter, Anais, and are also in the midst of home renovations.

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But after a tough day, there’s nothing quite like being greeted by a smiling, energetic youngster.

“I think it’s awesome because they don’t stress about anything,” Ford said. “It’s kind of like when you come back home and my daughter is there, it’s kind of a safe zone where you kind of know what to expect.

“Maybe a little bit unexpected sometimes but it’s always just happy enjoyment when I get to see her.”

However, the well-spoken and outgoing Ford doesn’t believe fatherhood has changed him.

“I feel like I’m still the same person,” he said. “Obviously I have more responsibility now but my wife definitely makes it so much easier.

“She plays a really big part, especially during the season when I’m away for 10-12 hours a day or heading out for away games, which I’m very thankful for. At the same time I’m happy to be in that father-figure role in trying to take care of (Anais).”

However, once camp begins, Ford feels he’ll have something to prove.

“I’m always hungry, I always want to get better, learn and do everything I can,” he said. “It definitely will make me play with a bit of a chip on my shoulder but I feel that’s a good thing.

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“I think many guys who play with a chip on their shoulder are destined to do great things.”

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