Paris Ford, Darrin Walls' brother, set for Notre Dame visit

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Paris Ford looks like his brother.

On a football field, he’s a 6-foot, 172-pound missile, roaming the defensive backfield in search of a helpless ball carrier. His highlight tape is impressively repetitive, layered with hit after hit after hit after hit.

The 2017 defensive back isn’t the first guy from Pittsburgh to run like that, to hit like that, to transform his diminutive frame into an asset on both sides of the ball.

Not so long ago, Darrin Walls did the same.

Before he arrived at Notre Dame, Walls, too, turned heads in the Pittsburgh area. The 6-foot, 190-pound athlete racked up 124 tackles and 16 interceptions in his four-year prep career at Woodland Hills High School, also contributing as a running back and wide receiver.

In South Bend, Walls made 140 tackles with five interceptions from 2006 to 2010, before eventually graduating on to his current position with the New York Jets.

Could Ford — his younger brother — follow suit?

“Football is just in my blood,” said Ford, who will take an unofficial visit to Notre Dame on Friday. “That’s all we live and breathe is football. We knew Darrin was going to be that (great) one, so hopefully I’m up next.”

So far, Ford has provided little reason to expect anything less. The Seton-La Salle High School standout recorded 56 tackles and four interceptions in his sophomore season, adding 34 receptions for 527 yards and 10 touchdowns on offense. The consensus four-star prospect is ranked by Rivals as the No. 33 overall recruit in the 2017 class, while 247Sports tabs him as the No. 149 overall player.

Where Darrin leads, Paris follows.

“When you watch him on film, he’s a fantastic all-around athlete. I think people are going to be excited when they see him,” CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said of Ford.

“He’s one of the best athletes in Pennsylvania, even though he’s only going to be a junior. He can play quarterback. He can play running back. He can play wide receiver, corner and free safety. And he’s one of the best shooting guards in Pennsylvania as a basketball player. He’s going to be one of the best players in the class of 2017.”

But will Ford’s path also lead him to Notre Dame? The Irish coaching staff cleared the way for that decision in early June, delivering an offer on the versatile playmaker’s birthday. And while he’s also considering the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Auburn, Michigan and Michigan State, there’s nothing quite like a birthday surprise.

“That was crazy,” Ford said. “When I got that offer from them, my phone was blowing up. It was just the best birthday gift. You can’t ask for anything better than an offer from Notre Dame on your birthday.”

Ford will take an unofficial visit to South Bend on Friday, touring the campus alongside two other notable Pittsburgh area standouts — 2016 defensive back Damar Hamlin and 2017 linebacker David Adams. Two 2016 products, Illinois tight end Cole Kmet and New Jersey athlete Jordan Fuller, will visit on Thursday.

And while Ford has the family ties, Hamlin — also a consensus four-star prospect — may be the most coveted of the group.

“Damar Hamlin is the No. 1 player in western PA, no doubt,” Lemming said. “He’s a tall, lengthy, long-armed, quick-footed DB. I think he can play corner, even though some people like him as a safety. He’s got the body control and the burst to play corner, and he’s a premier player. That would be a major catch.”

And in the end, Notre Dame may catch both of them.

Or neither.

“Damar, we’ve been really close. It’s just like a brother thing,” Ford said. “We’re trying to do a package deal somewhere. We’re just trying to find the right place. We’re making sure we look at everything carefully so we don’t make the wrong decision.”

Notre Dame’s coaches will do everything in their power this weekend to sway Ford and Co., to lock down the rising junior who looks — and plays — like Darrin Walls.

Not to mention someone else.

“I think I play like Ed Reed,” Ford said. “That’s one of my favorite players. He’s an all-around player. Yeah, he’s a safety, but when he gets an interception he’s like a receiver on the field. I compare myself to him.”

Four-star safety Paris Ford, a 2017 recruit, reported a Notre Dame offer on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)
Paris Ford, Darrin Walls' younger brother and one of the top players in the 2017 class, will take an unofficial visit to Notre Dame on Friday (photo courtesy Rivals).