Described as a "young Donald Driver" by wide receivers coach Ray Sherman, seventh-round draft pick Carl Ford entered the 2003 preseason hoping to prove wrong all the people who doubted his size, strength and ability to play in the National Football League.
Nearly 10 months after the 2003 NFL draft, Ford is still waiting for that chance.
With six catches and 63 yards in the Packers' first four preseason games, Ford suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in the final preseason game against Tennessee, forcing him to put that dream on hold.
"It was devastating, heartbreaking," Ford said. "When it happened, I knew something was wrong with my knee, but I didn't figure it would be a torn MCL, that's for sure."
With the beginning of the regular season schedule just a week away, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman was forced to place Ford on injured reserve Aug. 31, ending all hopes Ford may have had about returning to the field.
"I had a long conversation with Coach Sherman and it was a decision that was best for the team, which was a good decision for him to make," Ford said. "He told me the things I had to do to be prepared to do it all over again next year.
"The rehab ended up going really fast and about two months into it I was ready to play, but IR puts you out for the year so you have to deal with it."
Instead of dwelling on what might have been, Ford has turned the negative into a positive and since the injury has become a mainstay in the Packers' weight room.
"Coming in this year, there were a lot of people who said that I wasn't big enough and I wouldn't be able to withstand the whole season," Ford said. "Now I've gotten a lot stronger working with (strength and conditioning coach) Barry Rubin, who's really been my position coach this year, and I think it's going to benefit me more next year."
A second-team All-Mid-American Conference selection out of Toledo, Ford led the team with 79 receptions -- second most in school history -- a team-record 1,062 yards receiving and 9 touchdown catches his senior season.
Comparisons to Driver (6-foot, 188 pounds) -- also drafted by the Packers in the seventh-round from a small college (Alcorn State) -- come when talking about Ford's size, quickness and ability to learn the game. At 6-feet, Ford entered the Packers training camp weighing 179-pounds, only 9 less than Driver.
"He (too) is very quick and wants to learn and is very athletic with good hands," says Ray Sherman. "He's got the tools to be an explosive receiver. Once he understands and puts everything together, you'll see an exciting player."
But before he can learn on the field, Ford -- once told by Driver that "they find the gems in the seventh round" -- has dedicated himself to becoming a bigger, stronger player off the field.
"(The injury) might be a blessing in disguise," said Rubin. "He took advantage of his time off, he didn't just leave. Carl stayed here the whole time, the whole season and came in every day to work out. He's put on 10 pounds. He's got good strength levels and he can run out of sight."
After spending some time following the season at his home in Monroe, Mich., Ford returned to Green Bay voluntarily almost two weeks ago to continue his strength and conditioning training.
"Carl's a very good kid," Rubin said. "When you have guys like that, you really want to go the extra mile for them. He's an appreciative person and he'll do what you ask him to do. Those guys are fun to work with because you know they're going be here and they're going to make progress."
As for Ford, he's already seen the progress. Now he's just ready for the opportunity to show it off.
"I've been telling everybody that I'm 110 percent," said Ford. "My knee feels stronger than it did even before I injured it.
"I think I have a lot of things to prove because I didn't get to do that much in the preseason last year. I didn't have a lot of contact and personally, I just want to prove it to myself and my family that I can play at this level."