Players PromiseApr 11, 2018

Leaving it on the Field for Mom: Kortne and Laurie Ford

Colorado Rapids center back Kortne Ford has overcome immense hardship in his journey to the MLS. He has struggled through a remarkably difficult series of events, and has been rewarded with the respect and admiration of fans and teammates. But for Ford and his family, the challenging journey is still not over.

Growing up in Olathe, Kansas, Ford split his time between his mother Laurie Ford and his father. He spent every other weekend at his father’s until the age of 12. On those weekends, he was living in a very physically abusive situation that he didn't truly understand until around age nine. He was often beaten and locked in rooms for the smallest misstep, and it took him some time to realize this was not how a father was supposed to behave. “I finally told my mom what was happening and she told me that it wasn’t normal,” Ford explained.

The abuse sparked a two year process in which Laurie tried to gain full custody of Kortne. It was a long and frustrating process and even the end wasn't without pain. “In 2008 my mom finally won custody,” Ford said, “and my father told us (myself and my mom) that if he ever saw us again, that he would kill us.”

Kortne Ford hugs his mom Laurie

With those words haunting the pair, they fled to Colorado where they sought a chance to start over. While the escape from his father was a blessing to Ford, their new start was not to be free of new challenges. 

Almost immediately after the move, Laurie received her first cancer diagnosis of Stage Four Breast Cancer. Ford wasn’t really sure what that meant at the time, but knew his mother was a fighter. She ended up going into remission and beating the cancer after months of chemotherapy and radiation.

While his mother faced her medical obstacle, Kortne was faced with a challenge of his own - on the soccer field. Before leaving Kansas, Ford had made the Kansas City Wizards academy team, but after relocating to Colorado, he found he could only afford to play at the same level. Ford had to bounce around from team to team, going to whoever was willing to offer him a scholarship. But, even through her fight with cancer, Laurie did everything to insure Kortne was on a path to success. “In my early high school days and end of my middle school days she would literally drive two hours across Denver just so that I could train while she was getting chemotherapy,” explained Ford.  

After working his way up the ranks, Ford found his way on to the Colorado Rapids development team in a state cup. One of the Rapids academy coaches saw him play and asked him if he wanted to be a part of the academy. Ford had come a long way in miles and experience to be on that team, and he views it as a major turning point in his young career. "That's when I decided soccer was what I wanted to do,” he said.

In Kortne’s senior year of high school, hardship struck his family again. Ford’s Godmother was diagnosed with liver cancer. “She basically raised me with my mom. We all grew up in the same house,” described Ford. And so, for a second time, cancer hung over the family’s head.

Despite the continued challenges at home, Ford was focused on his future. In a meeting with the Rapids' coaching staff, he entertained the option of bypassing college and signing a professional contract out of high school. “That seemed like an amazing thing to me. That was my dream,” said Ford, but the series of unfortunate events did not let up. 

Just as the opportunity to turn professional was presented, Ford's two best friends were tragically killed in a car crash. The crash shook Ford deeply. It caused Ford and his mother reconsider his path. "My mom thought that it would be best if I went to college for a year to kind of test the waters and see if I liked it," said Ford, and eventually he ended up agreeing with his mother. 

Initially, Ford was sure that he wanted to go away for college, but life had other plans. Two weeks shy of committing to Duke University, Jamie Franks, the current head coach at the University of Denver and assistant coach at the time, was coaching with the national team at their regional training sessions and saw Kortne play. 

“He asked me if I wanted to come on a visit, and I purely did so out of respect. I didn’t want to burn the bridge with him being a coach with the national team. When I went on that visit they were the only team out of all the places that I visited to sit down with me and talk soccer before anything else,” recalled Ford. “Denver was the only team that sat down and told me how I would fit into their system, and they were also the only team of the four that didn't promise me a starting spot. So, I thought they were a program that was really concerned with development, rather than just recruiting me as a player just for business purposes, trying to get me to come to their school. That really caught my eye”.

Within a week, Ford had committed to the University of Denver. The coaches of the Colorado Rapids supported the choice. Staying in Colorado would give them a chance to keep an eye on him as he developed. So, even though circumstances had convinced him to try the college route, he continued to maintain his contact with the professional game.

Ford built on an impressive freshman campaign with an even better sophomore year, starting all 19 matches and tying for the team-high in minutes. Going into his junior year, Kortne “was really pressed to leave college early. That's when I really sat down with my mom and my coach and looked at my development as a player." 

The three decided it was best for him to go back for one more year. At this point, Ford was just waiting for the right timing. He knew that he was in good hands with coach Franks, and his coach ensured there was a good relationship with the Colorado Rapids. Ford knew, “it wasn't a matter of if it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when.”

Ford recalls the exact moment he knew he was going to make his transition into the pros. “During the Clemson game in the Elite Eight, I scored in the final minute of the game to push us on to the Final Four. I knew in that very moment I was leaving college early after my junior year. I had a good enough year that year, and I knew that I wasn't going to go back for my senior year." 

After the season ended, negotiations began for his contract with the Rapids. He officially signed in January of 2017. “That moment was surreal because there were so many pieces, so many different people that played a role in getting to achieve my lifetime goal. It wasn’t just my success, it wasn't just my achievement, it was everybody that helped me along the way, it was their achievement as well,” Ford described.

However, as had happened so often before, Ford's success was marked with new trials. Shortly after joining the Rapids, in February 2017 of Ford’s rookie season, his Godmother lost her battle with liver cancer. It was a painful loss for Ford. Then, within the same week, his mother was diagnosed with a terminal bone cancer and given three to six months to live. The off-field challenges seemed destined to continue. 

With strength and support behind her, Laurie “battled and proved the doctors wrong and the cancer went down. The amount of cancer in her body decreased dramatically”. She had battled back again, this time against even steeper odds. She was doing well until a few months ago when doctors told her the cancer had come back aggressively and once again gave her three to six months to live.

In light of the situation and to ease the immense financial burden cancer creates, a GoFundMe page was started for Laurie that, to date, has almost 600 donations totaling to over $45,000. A remarkable number of people have rallied behind her fight. “It’s friends, it’s family, it’s strangers, it’s the Colorado Rapids community, it’s literally everyone that’s had an impact in my life and who has known me personally and anybody who has known my mom," said Ford.

Through it all, Kortne continues to play the game with his mom as his support and motivation. She still attends every single home game and continues to fuel his passion for the game. 

“If she can be battling like this, why can’t I do the same. The only thing she wants to see me do is achieve my goals and she’s not always going to witness them. I'm aware of that, so I’m just doing my best every single day until that moment comes”.

You can help support Kortne's mom by donating to her GoFundMe page. Also, follow Kortne ford on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with his journey.