Xavier Ford overcomes unbelievable odds
Published: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Most 12-year-olds are fast asleep by midnight on a school night.
Not Xavier Ford.
At midnight from ages 12 to 17, his day was just beginning.
Ford, a freshman forward on the basketball team, worked a paper route with his grandfather, a man so hobbled by football injuries and surgeries he could barely walk. He worked Monday through Sunday, 365 days a year to help his family pay for food, rent and heat.
From 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. every day, Ford would roll all the newspapers and pack them and his grandfather – John Ford – into a van. Then they would throw the papers from about 5:30 a.m. until 6 a.m.
Tired, hungry, and with hands covered in newsprint, Ford then had an hour to himself before school.
As soon as the dismissal bell rang, Ford headed to the basketball courts. He loved the time he had in the gym to prepare and to work at his true passion. He did homework until 10 p.m. got a few hours of sleep and started the routine again.
"I had to grow up real fast and grow up early," Ford said. "I worked that paper route because my grandfather injured his back so he couldn't really take care of himself. So I took care of him; I took care of the house; I brought home money for us to get groceries."
Ford learned early not to complain. He couldn't. He had too much to do.
"Some days you get tired of [working] but at the end of the day I had to provide for my family," Ford said. "I programmed myself. I was like a computer. I just got used to working hard and after a while I just did it; it was a job, I just got it done."
The paper route is where Xavier's story begins.
The basketball court is where it becomes extraordinary.
In 2011, Ford, a senior at Harrison High School in Colorado Springs, was named to the PARADE All-American team. He is the first recruit in UB history to make the prestigious list. He averaged almost a double-double with 27.4 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game last season and helped his team to a 20-5 record.
In a game against local rival Woodland Park on Jan. 29, Ford scored a season-high 41 points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, had five assists, and recorded an amazing seven steals.
But before all this happened, he did something even more miraculous: he beat the statistics.
Avoiding Gang Life
In 2010, the poverty rate in the U.S. was 15.1 percent, the highest it had been since 1993. Forty-six million people – including Ford – were living in poverty. That's the highest number of poor people in the 52 years that poverty numbers have been published, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In the same year, the Institute for Higher Education Policy reported that in 2008, only 37 percent of black students went to college, and only 11 percent of all low-income students graduated from college.
Even more stunning, in 2005, 10 percent of all black males ages 18 to 24 were in state or federal prisons, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
At age 12, Ford looked set to follow the numbers.
"I was involved with the streets for a little while," Ford said. "I was trying to find myself so I was a gang banger for a little while."
But then, his grandparents, Alma and John Ford, intervened. Alma Ford, petite, good-looking, and strong-as-a-rock, taught him to cook soul food, to respect others and himself. John Ford, once a bull of a man at 6'6,'' but so crippled by injuries that he needed help in and out of a car, taught him that dignity makes a man more than swagger and that real men take responsibility for their families.
They sat their sixth-grade gang-banging grandson down and threatened him. They were tired of the problems he was causing in school. They were tired of worrying. They warned him that if he stayed in a gang he would end up in jail or dead.
They tried to scare sense into him. They even threatened to send him back to his mother.
"I had a long talk with my grandma, my grandparents, and I decided gang banging wasn't going to get me anywhere," Ford said. He also couldn't bear the thought of not being with his grandparents.