LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Growing up in Louisville, Marshon Ford would be in awe every visit to Cardinal Stadium.
"It was crazy," Ford said. "I felt like this was professional football."
Now, the Ballard High School graduate has turned heads on his way to proving he can be a pro himself.
Ford came to Louisville as a preferred walk-on and has since made a home of the end zone, scoring 13 touchdowns in the past two seasons. This season promises even more production from the tight end who has wanted to prove himself from the day he stepped onto campus.
"I'm still a walk-on at heart," Ford said. "Nothing has ever been given to me, so I've always worked."
In his last year with the Bruins, Ford was a standout. He scored nine touchdowns while also playing defense. Still, he was not getting major attention from colleges — and his heart was still set on Louisville.
"I wanted to take a chance," Ford said. "My brother had talked to me, we had a long talk and he was just like, 'If you feel like you belong down there, then just go there.'"
So he walked on and immediately went to work. It didn't take long for him to figure out what would get him noticed.
"I'm at the bottom of the food chain," Ford said. "I got to do what needs to be done. A lot of people don't want to go on kickoff. I'll go on kickoff. You got to do a lot of things that others won't in order to get on the field. I just took a chance on myself."
Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield said Ford has never complained or said anything to the staff.
"He just comes in and works," Satterfield said. "Wherever we've put him, he's been willing and able to do it."
"I want the truth," Ford said. "So if I didn't do something that you felt like I could have did better, tell me so I can get better. I'm definitely open and always trying to learn."
He's proven to be a quick study. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound tight end scored seven touchdowns in 2019 and six in 2020. Those 13 career touchdowns are the fourth-most in program history for a Cardinal tight end. He also has 45 career receptions for 601 yards.
"He's so talented with the ball in his hands," Satterfield said. "He's kind of like a receiver. Now, he's also kind of like a running back because of his size. And he can break tackles."
The Cardinals could use some of that versatility this year. They lost their two leading receivers in Tutu Atwell and Dez Fitzpatrick as well as their leading rusher in Javian Hawkins.
"Marshon is the Swiss Army Knife," Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham said. "He can block in the backfield. You can toss him the ball, run."
Satterfield and Cunningham said they want an expanded role for Ford to maximize his skillset as a trusted weapon in the offense.
"This year, we're like man, let's leave him on the field a little bit more," Satterfield said. "He's a great hybrid-type player. We want to continue to utilize him and put pressure on defenses."
As his role expands and more attention comes, Ford continues to carry himself like the wide-eyed walk-on in awe of the stadium where he now plays.
"He makes plays and he leads by example," Cunningham said.
And the Louisville native takes a great deal of pride in representing his city.
"I'm a hometown kid," Ford said. "So I always want our city to be on top. And it means so much to me because I can I go back home. So it just brings a lot of energy out of me that a lot of other things don't. I love it."