He's yet to coach a game - and has only coached three practices! - but Missouri football's Eliah Drinkwitz continues to collect St. Louis talent at a rapid rate. On Thursday, he reeled in a whopper: four-star Lutheran North defensive end Travion Ford. He's the state's highest-rated 2021 recruit who had been uncommitted.
"They’re getting one of the best players in the country, a national recruit," Lutheran North coach Carl Reed said. "He could have went to a lot of places, but he really built a great relationship with Brick Haley and Coach Drinkwitz and decided he wanted to stay home. He’s an immediate impact guy who can play right away. He’s got all the tools to be a high-level, very productive player."
Ford was ineligible for the first two weeks of the 2019 season but still earned first-team Class 2 All-State honors and third-team All-Metro honors after piling up 62 tackles and nine sacks. Ford transferred to Lutheran North from Lutheran St. Charles in February 2019 and was initially ruled ineligible to play for the Lutheran North varsity team by the Missouri State High School Activities Association's appeals committee last August. After Ford and Lutheran North appealed that decision the MSHSAA board of directors cleared him to play last September.
One he became eligible, an already loaded team continued to thrive and captured the Class 2 state championship.
"Everybody already knew he was a special talent," Reed said. "There was no doubt we expected him to be highly productive as soon as he was available to play. It’s a different deal when you play on a team that has some of the other guys we have. Our guys wont necessarily be be stat-fillers because there's too many of them. You have to share the pile with other dogs. That also tremendously helped him because he got an opportunity to learn leadership from some of those older guys."
Ford is rated the nation's No. 12 weakside defensive end by Rivals.com
and holds offers from up and down the list of Power 5 programs, including Alabama, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas. Before the coronavirus pandemic put a halt on recruiting visits, Ford had official visits planned for Illinois, Louisville and Mizzou.
"The coronavirus situation canceled quite a few visits," Reed said. "I just think he was getting to the point where he was pretty comfortable with this decision."
Ford gives Mizzou seven commitments for the 2021 class with four others from the St. Louis metro area: De Smet running back Taj Butts and defensive lineman Mekhi Wingo, Washington tight end Ryan Hoerstkamp and East St. Louis quarterback Tyler Macon. Drinkwitz's sales pitch is clearly finding an audience.
"It’s definitely resonating," Reed said. "You can see by the amount of players he’s gotten to commit from the area. I was talking to Coach (Darren) Sunkett and the guys over at East St. Louis they were really excited about him as well. You have to be committed to in state recruiting. When you look across the SEC, any of the programs that are wining are really committed to in-state recruiting. He’s been able to do that."
This article was originally featured on stltoday.com