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‘Finish What You Started’: Devyn Ford Last of 2019 ‘Lawn Boyz’

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Sean Clifford and Devyn Ford

Nobody would have blamed Devyn Ford for leaving Penn State.

When he began his college football career in 2019, he was part of a quartet of backs known as the “Lawn Boyz.”

After Penn State finished that season with an 11-2 record, Ricky Slade, who was a five-star recruit once upon a time, transferred to Old Dominion.

Ford stayed.

In November of 2020, Journey Brown had to leave football due to a medical condition, making what was once a quartet a duo of Ford and Noah Cain.

Ford’s close friend, Cain, suffered a season-ending injury in Penn State’s 2020 season opener at Indiana, so for most of that season, Ford was the only active Penn State player from that “Lawn Boyz” foursome.

Cain came back in 2021, but wasn’t the same player and transferred to LSU following the year.

Perhaps Ford can relate to Elton John’s hit “I’m Still Standing.”

He stayed at Penn State and came into 2022 as the only one left of those four backs that helped the program to its most recent good season.

So why did Ford stay?

Even with all the injuries and departures in Penn State’s running backs room, Ford didn’t become a star.

In 2020, with Cain and Brown out, Keyvone Lee, not Ford, became Penn State’s top runner.

Ford spent the 2021 season behind Lee, the returning Cain and John Lovett on the depth chart.

This year, freshmen studs Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen are in the picture, and Ford is again a face in the crowd.

In this era of college sports, where players enter and exit programs with the same frequency that Rocky Balboa used to take punches, Ford is in his fourth season with the same program.

It goes back to a mindset his grandmother instilled in him: “Finish what you started.”

That phrase is often easier said than done, but it’s easier for Ford to finish what he started at Penn State because he loves the school.

“It’s a great place to be here,” Ford told reporters via Zoom Wednesday. “I mean, it’s Penn State. You can’t get anywhere better than this. Family atmosphere, obviously. You go in the building every single day and you can treat every single man in there like he’s your father or your friend, and that’s what you like to have, especially for the four years going in.”

Part of what’s kept Ford at Penn State is the relationship he’s built with his head coach.

“Devyn Ford is one of my favorites,” James Franklin said after Penn State’s 41-12 win over Auburn this past Saturday. “I shouldn’t have favorites.”

Ford’s allowed to have a favorite college head coach, and he’s only had one to choose from.

“I have a lot of respect for him as well for leading our team and being the best man he can be,” Ford said. “I thank him for respecting me as well. We’ve just had a great time throughout the years. Always talked, we’ve chatted, laughed here and there and kept pushing.”

The “keep pushing” part has been especially important.

Ford not becoming a college football star would be easier if Penn State had been an elite team over the past two seasons.

But it wasn’t. Penn State won as many games as it lost over two of Ford’s three full seasons, and hasn’t reached 10 wins since before the pandemic.

The best team Ford played on also had its best and deepest running backs corps.

Now, with Singleton, Allen and Lee, a much-older Ford, who also plays a big role on special teams in Penn State’s return game, is part of a quartet like he was as a freshman.

“Back then, I was a young bull, looking up to old heads,” Ford said. “So, you know, (I was) just constantly learning from them every single day, trying to pick up their skills, their habits, whatever I can to increase the level of my play a little bit.”

Ford is a veteran, but that doesn’t mean he can’t pick up on things that Singleton, Allen and other players do.

“I’m learning from them,” he said with a laugh. “They’re teaching me how to be more aggressive in the run game. Teaching me how to just use my speed and get out there. They’re just doing things that I’m noticing that help our room out a lot.”

A lot has changed since 2019, but the bond Ford has with his fellow running backs on this team is like it was with the original “Lawn Boyz” three years ago, and Ford feels nostalgia this season.

“We all love each other,” Ford said. “We all have each other’s backs. Sitting on the sidelines, making sure somebody’s locked in. If someone’s not locked in, making sure they get locked in. Making sure if they miss a meeting, they get the notes. We always have each other’s back, no matter what.”

Nobody would have blamed Devyn Ford for leaving Penn State.

But Franklin is thankful he stayed.

”The way he’s handled his entire Penn State career,” Franklin said. “He’s one of our MVPs. He’s doing it on special teams right now. He has a nice role on offense. Really proud of him.”

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