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When he first heard that ESPNU wanted to feature ESPN Top-300 defensive tackle Poona Ford’s college announcement on National Signing Day, Hilton Head (S.C.) head coach B.J. Payne thought there was no way Ford would want to proceed with it. But Ford, much to his coach’s chagrin, agreed.

“I said, ‘Poona, that’s not you,’” Payne said. “‘You’re a quiet kid. That goes against everything that you are about. You know I’m not a fan of that.’ He goes, ‘Coach, when else does our high school have a chance be on the stage on national television and let me give a thank you back to the teachers and the school that made me who I am?’”

Taken aback by this gesture, Payne allowed Ford — who committed to Texas in February — to proceed and watched as the shy student, who usually avoids media attention, soaked it in as a tribute to those around him. It was a genuine motive but not at all surprising for a kid who once received 40 references by his teachers within an hour of them being requested and, during summer practices, ate lunch with Payne’s children because he’s their favorite player.

Ford’s arrival in Austin is a direct result of his bond with head coach Charlie Strong, which is why he originally committed to Louisville in August 2013. Ford visited the Cardinals that summer for a 13-hour visit, during which Strong didn’t leave Ford’s side. It seemed that Strong had broken through to the quiet Ford, who left the visit with Louisville as his top choice.

“I think Strong just has a way of putting guys at ease, almost that father figure where they open up,” said Hilton Head defensive line coach Joey Maddox, who took Ford to visit Louisville. “He just gave that family feel, and that’s one thing Poona’s always been around — his family.”   

“He’s an all-around great person, a good motivator, and there’s just something about him that makes me want to play for him,” Ford said about Strong.

When Strong left for Texas, Ford worried that he wouldn’t be asked to follow him, but that concern didn’t last too long. A week after declining the Cardinals, Ford visited Austin, and following trips to Missouri and Purdue, signed with the Longhorns on National Signing Day.

“At the end, I picked the right school that fit me,” Ford stated.

Ford’s decision to sign with Texas gave it a player whom Payne described as “a freak show, [who] just does things that people just shouldn’t be able to do.”

Undersized at 6-feet tall, Ford’s 80-inch wingspan allows him to swat down balls with ease. His 4.8 40 time and 600-pound max squat are a nightmare combination for offensive lines to block.

Ford’s game should fit perfectly into Strong’s defensive scheme. Maddox believes the system he’s played in high school should prepare him for playing in Texas’ defensive line under coach Chris Rumph.

“With the techniques that coach Rumph coaches are a lot of the techniques that I mirror, so it’s not a lot of new stuff,” Maddox said. “The only thing new is going to be the language, some of the jargon may be different from here to there. But, once he gets in line and puts two and two together, the techniques will be the same for him.”

It may be a while before Ford sees the field because of returning upperclassmen, such as senior Desmond Jackson and junior Malcom Brown. But, if he fails to play a significant role early, Payne believes that would be a tribute to the quality of Texas’ depth at defensive tackle.

“If there’s enough guys on Texas or any university in the country to keep that kid off the field his freshman year, I’ll tip my hat to them. He’s that good,” Payne said.

While Ford embraced the media — which he seemed to avoid over the recent years as he rose into an elite Division-1 prospect — on that one day in February, expect the quiet star to return to his business as usual.

UTPD is stepping it up with the addition of new SUV’s.  With nearly $15,000 of police equipment per vehicle, new Ford Explorers will endure wear and tear while ensuring an optimum environment for officers to work on the go.

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

UTPD’s newest form of transportation — a fleet of brand-new, police-ready Ford Explorers — cost UTPD roughly $50,000 per vehicle. Campus security administrators had to fight to enable these and other enhancements in the face of wide-reaching budget cuts.

Bob Harkins, vice president for Campus Safety and Security, said departments at all levels of the University were faced with budget deficits, but in the end, interest in campus safety was enough to avert any reduction in UTPD’s funds, which stands at almost $9 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

“We protected the people in UTPD,” Harkins said. “We protected their training and their equipment.”

Assistant chief of police Terry McMahan said UTPD’s vehicles undergo a significant amount of wear and tear — more so than the average car — and the department needs continued funding to replace vehicles every year.

“Officers get in and out of their vehicles 24-seven,” McMahan said. “Cars take a beating in this business.”

Harkins said $50,000 sounds like a significant amount of money to spend on a car, but roughly $15,000 of the cost comes from policing equipment installed in each vehicle.

Before purchasing vehicles from the state, the department takes gas efficiency, quality and interior spaciousness into consideration.

“We want our officers to be comfortable,” McMahan said. “Some professionals have offices — University police officers have patrol cars. The car is the office.”

McMahan said vehicles are replaced after they accumulate high mileage or become too expensive to maintain. Once a car is decommissioned, it is stripped down and auctioned off by the University.

“[Our vehicles] don’t accumulate mileage on highways like most cars do — it’s city mileage and that’s tough on an engine,” McMahan said.

Once a proposal for a new fleet is drawn up by the department, it is up to Patricia Clubb, vice president of University Operations, to decide whether to approve the department’s requests. Clubb said she is sympathetic to police officers’ need for a working vehicle and strives to get as much funding for the department as she can.

“There’s a lot of starting and stopping, which causes a whole lot of wear and tear on those vehicles,” Clubb said. “The officers are really dependent on their cars and that’s a big part of what they do … We run these cars into the ground. When they’re ready to be replaced, we step up and fund those new vehicles.”

Although administration shielded the department from significant cuts, Clubb said the department’s cost-efficiency also makes equipment enhancements possible. She said improvements in police technology such as the installation of laptop computers in police cruisers have streamlined UTPD’s record-keeping process, saving the department time and money.

“We can spend more time on policing and less time on the paperwork,” Clubb said.

Currently, UTPD has 18 commissioned vehicles — 10 patrol cars, four supervisor vehicles and four canine transfer units.

McMahan said he expects new vehicles to last three to five years before they are rotated out of commission. 

Clubb said she will continue to stand up for the department and push to get them the resources they need.

“The campus depends on the police department for its safety,” Clubb said. “I think there’s a feeling of well-being throughout campus because of having a good police department. Safety is what they’re all about, and I think they’ve done a great job.”