Pitt safety Paris Ford was included on the 2020 watch list for the Thorpe Award on Monday, according to an announcement from the Jim Thorpe Association and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. The award, named for former Carlisle defensive back, NFL star and Olympian Jim Thorpe, was first given in 1986 and honors the nation’s top defensive back.
The preseason honor is one of many for Ford, who has also been named to multiple preseason All-America teams after seeing his star rise in 2019. Last season, the Pittsburgh native led the Panthers in tackles, with 97, and interceptions, with three. He was also a disruptive force on defense, as he forced three fumbles and broke up 11 passes, ranking second on the team in that category.
Pitt’s secondary was a formidable aspect of its elite defense in 2019, and Ford was the star of an impressive defensive backfield. Pitt ranked fourth in the nation in completion percentage allowed, at 51 percent; eighth in the nation in yards allowed per pass attempt, with 6.1; and 11th in the nation in opposing quarterback rating. Quarterbacks facing the Panthers had an average rating of just 112.93.
If Ford were to take home the Thorpe Award after the 2020 season, he would be the first player in Pitt’s history to do so. He would also put an end to a three-year streak of the award going to SEC defensive backs.
Grant Delpit of LSU won the honor in 2019 and was preceded by Deandre Baker of Georgia in 2018 and Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama in 2017. The only defensive back to win the Thorpe Award for their performance in the ACC was Gerod Holliman of Louisville in 2014. Bennie Blades of Miami won the award in 1987, as did Florida State stars Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley. However, Miami and Florida State were independents at the time.