Terrence Ford stood with his hands on his hips and his face was filled with concern. It's the kind of look a coach has when the game is on the line or when a coach is ready to talk to the team in the huddle. It was an hour before Cheraw's boys basketball game against Chesterfield, and Terrence Ford was outside the locker room. I had asked him to choose between two of his players to make the WPDE All-Hoop Zone team. It's like asking a parent to choose one child for an honor.
Coach Ford and I talked it through. You would have thought we were drawing up the last play to win the game. Rashad Merriman came to the Hoop Zone Banquet. We chose him over Justin Chapman because he got to experience the banquet as a football player. A great tiebreaker. Coach Ford then told me about a freshman point guard, Zaccheus Sellers, and how he had a chance to be a special player. You could see the determination in his eyes and through his words on how he was going to do everything he could to put his young future star in a position to not only succeed in Cheraw, but on a bigger stage in college basketball. Perhaps these words will fuel young Sellers to honor his head coach by completing the vision over the next three years.
Terrence Ford died of a heart attack. At 34 years old, he was athletic and the last person you would think could succumb to heart disease. I've been writing this story too many times in the last year from Kingstree coach Sonya Burgess to Ronald Rouse's death. We are desensitized in the news business. We tell the tragic tale far too often and have to do it professionally and move on to the next story. Fortunately, the sports world is filled with much more joy than real heartbreak. It's a simpler world when the sports fan's biggest problem is his or her team's losing streak.
I can tell you a story about nearly every town in the Pee Dee and the Grand Strand. Cheraw is a special place to me. You might think because it's David Bennett's hometown. You are partially right. It's because it's Ma Bennett's hometown - my third grandmother. I remember how the entire town came together when she left this earth and I know that Cheraw will do the same thing for Coach Ford and his family. The night that I spoke to Coach Ford about the All-Zone team was a Friday night and I was working my way to High Point for a Coastal Carolina road game. Coach David Byrd, the athletic director, opened his office to me so I could feed highlights back to the TV station and get on the road to North Carolina. I felt more comfortable in that office than my own. There's something about the people of Cheraw who just make you feel welcome.
Terrence Ford is a symbol of every single coach of every single sport in our area: a true role model for young men and women who make an overwhelming impact in the formative years of their lives. It's easy for me to feel guilty about using this space to write about a man that I have only had brief encounters with. So many people are closer to Terrence Ford than me. I'm going to read the story of Terrence Ford's death tonight on the news and in about 30 seconds I'll be moving on to the next story. In the grand scheme of things, my relationship with Coach Ford is like a 30 second story, a brief interlude that should be a whole lot longer.
When I was sending the highlights of Cheraw's win against rival Chesterfield, David Byrd's office was filled with kids who were fascinated that my laptop was a mini-TV station bringing the game that they should have been watching down the hall to our TV station in Conway. Terrence Ford's young son was sitting on my lap, thrilled that his Dad's team was on TV. Sometimes, you get a lifetime to learn about who a person is. I got about 30 seconds and in that short span I figured out who Terrence Ford was all about. And that's what is really going to be in my head and my heart as I read that story tonight.