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Jan. 20, 1998

Hard-Working Ford Makes Quality Job One

By Nate Ewell, MSU Sports Information

ford photo
Mike Ford has battled through injuries to contribute for the Spartans.

EAST LANSING, Mich. --In August, as head coach Ron Mason looked ahead to the 1997-98 season, the Spartan mentor was concerned about his limited sources of offense. But one possibility made his face light up.

"This will be Mike Ford's first year coming in completely healthy," Mason said, "which is encouraging. If anyone, he seems to have the opportunity to make his mark."

Call it a jinx, coincidence, or just plain bad luck. But Ford, a junior right wing for the Spartans, proceeded to sprain his right knee in the team's first practice and was out of the lineup for the first three weeks of the season.

"It's been frustrating," Ford says. "My college career hasn't gone as well as I would have hoped. Injuries have really bothered me."

Ford, a native of Vernon, British Columbia, battled with shoulder injuries his first two seasons with the Spartans, and despite appearing in all but three games over those two years, he was never the player he hoped to be. He had four goals and four assists through his first two seasons.

Entering this season, after gaining nearly 15 pounds while diligently working on the Spartans' off-season strength and conditioning program, Ford looked primed for a breakthrough season.

"Mike is a kid who has faced adversity with all sorts of injuries," assistant coach Tom Newton says. "But he's never complained. He has done whatever the athletic training staff and the coaching staff has asked of him.

"We have a lot of respect for him," Newton continues, "and his teammates have a lot of respect for him because of his work ethic."

Ford missed the first five games of the season and has appeared in 12 since then. He scored a big goal for Michigan State in the first period against Minnesota, giving the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

Despite disappointments on the ice, Ford has enjoyed his time at Michigan State. He had never lived away from the picturesque small valley town of Vernon, where he played junior hockey for the Vernon Lakers, before attending Michigan State.

"I have made great friends and had good times," Ford says. "I have enjoyed the time that I have spent here."

Coming out of juniors, Ford certainly had options. Although he was limited to 18 games in 1994-95, he had shown his potential the year before, registering 64 points in 60 games.

Even before picking a college, Ford had to decide whether to play major junior hockey or to go to school. He went the university route, and the disappointments on the ice have actually only strengthened his belief that the choice was the right one.

"I think I made the right choice," Ford says. "With my troubles with injuries, if I had gone to major juniors this would have been my last year. The university experience has definitely been worth it."

An excellent student, Ford earned Academic All-Big Ten honors last year, and he has enjoyed that aspect of college. He has had other highlights, both on and off the ice.

"The first football game I went to was neat," Ford says. "My first year here was my first year away from home, so I got to meet a lot of different people. In hockey, playing in front of 20,000 people at Joe Louis Arena was a highlight. The places I have gotten to go have been fun, too, like Boston. I had never been further east than here before I came here."

With Ford's strong work ethic, the injury problems he has encountered certainly do not preclude him from making the kind of impact in the next year and a half that he hoped to when he came to school.

"I think my strength on the ice is going to the net hard and getting my shot away," Ford says. "I try to work hard defensively and not be a liability. Hopefully I will get the chance to contribute to the team's success."

"He's one of those guys you hope has the success he wants to have, because he certainly works for it," Newton says.

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