My name is Kelly Ford, head football coach at Rowan County Senior High School. I am married to Raven Ford and have two wonderful daughters: Haven, 15, and Kelbie, 10. Raven is the Rowan County 4-H youth development agent, assistant girls basketball coach and head sixth-grade girls basketball coach.
I grew up in a small town in south-central Kentucky called Horse Cave. It only had one red light. I was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball and baseball) at Caverna High School and graduated in 1996. I had the opportunity to further my education and play football at Morehead State University. This is how my journey began in Morehead. I came to Morehead, where I only knew my two high school friends and cousin, to further my education.
Growing up in south-central Kentucky, I didn’t know anything about eastern Kentucky. I had always heard folks say that western, central and eastern Kentucky were all different, but really didn’t know what that meant. As an 18-year-old young teenager, I chose to take a different route than my other siblings, who went to Western Kentucky University or Campbellsville University, which were close to home. I became the first person to earn a college degree in my family.
I am a strong believer that God placed me in Morehead for a reason. There’s days when I’m not sure of that purpose, but I keep striving. Once I finished playing, I got an opportunity to coach at Morehead State for Matt Ballard and John Gilliam. I coached the defensive line for six years. My wife, Raven, moved to Morehead after graduating from Berea College in 2001. At that time, we decided to start a family and thought it would be best if I got out of college coaching. That’s when I began my career at Morehead Parks and Recreation as a program specialist running all programs for the local youth in the community. However, I still had football in my veins, so my good friend Mike Kash hired me to coach at the middle school. I did that for two years.
My next stop was Rowan County High School when Coach Bill Baldridge hired me as an assistant to coach the freshman team. I worked with four other head coaches — ShaDon Brown, Kyle Singleton, Ray Graham and Gene Peterson — before I became the head coach at Rowan County High School.
This is my story and journey in Morehead, Kentucky. Has it been an easy journey? No. Have there been struggles? Yes. One of my coaching highlights has been to be able to be role model to the young men that I’ve had the honor to coach — letting them know that life is a struggle, always try to make the right decision because you never know who’s watching, and that someone will always have something to say but you can’t control that. You can control how you embrace those challenges.
As an African American man living in this area, yes, it does change the way that I raise my family. We have had many conversations with our children about encounters they may have of being a person of color. We have always taught our children that they are “black and unique” — never let anyone steal your joy and never settle. We continue to let them know that they have a purpose and meaning. As a family, we have never worried about our children because we knew the teachings they were receiving at home. We worry about those that aren’t getting the proper teachings.
I must say that as an African American male, I have worries for my family, minority colleagues and my student-athletes. My wife and I both have worked extremely hard to raise our family in the community that we are in and feel that we are well-respected. However, with that being said, we are not naive from the thoughts that may run through some minds, from the comments that we may hear and from actions that we may see.
From my experience, I haven’t had any negative encounters with the police department. I have some really close acquaintances and former football players that work for the police department. There are good police officers in our communities as well! As we have all seen, there are not-so-good ones as well. Please note that just because I haven’t encountered negative actions, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. I never thought that our country would be at the place that it is today. I can remember my ancestors talking about their upbringings, riots and all of the racial encounters, but who thought those same battles would still be being fought today?
To all of the minority student-athletes in the 16th Region, if I can ever be of any help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I hear and understand your cry of frustrations. Stand strong and let your voices be heard because you matter. I will close with two quotes …
“It costs $0.00 to treat someone with respect.”
“Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it. Right is right, even if no one is doing it.”
KELLY FORD is the football coach at Rowan County Senior High School. The Horse Cave native has held that position since 2017.