Welcome to the 2022 FCS Jersey Countdown. Leading up to Week 0 games on Aug. 27, HERO Sports will name the best returning FCS player by jersey number, 99-0. Due to rosters being updated at different times for teams across the country and to keep things consistent, jersey numbers are based on last season’s rosters.
Note: Jersey numbers are based on 2021 rosters.
18: John H. Ford II, LB (Sr.) — UT Martin
Ford has big expectations heading into his sixth year at UT Martin thanks to a breakout year last fall.
He didn’t have much of an impact during his first three years with the team from 2017-2019. But in the 2020-21 season, he cracked the starting lineup and started all seven games, totaling 43 tackles and three tackles for loss.
Last season saw Ford at a new level. He was everywhere for the UT Martin defense. In 13 games, he racked up 88 tackles, five TFLs, 0.5 sacks, four interceptions (one returned 75 yards for a touchdown), eight passes defended, and one forced fumble. Ford was named on the All-OVC First Team.
Ford is racking up the accolades this summer. He was named the OVC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, a Stats Perform Preseason Third Team All-American, and was one of 35 FCS players named on the Buck Buchanan Award watch list.
At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds with several athletic plays on film, Ford has the attention of NFL scouts. Right now, he is viewed as an undrafted free agent. But another big season and crushing the predraft process will certainly skyrocket his stock.
Before that happens, the Skyhawks are looking for a big fall and to build off last season’s 10-3 record that saw their first-ever FCS playoff victory, winning 32-31 at Missouri State. They lost 26-7 the following week at eventual national runner-up Montana State. UT Martin is ranked No. 14 in HERO Sports’ preseason Top 25.