- Associated Press - Friday, May 9, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Dee Ford is just as confident tickling the ivory as he is tearing up the gridiron.

Just ask him who the best pass rusher in the NFL draft is this year. The former Auburn star and first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs will tell you without hesitation: He trumps No. 1 overall choice Jadeveon Clowney, and he intends to prove it.

“That just comes along with the game itself. I like to play confident,” said Ford, who was picked 23rd overall Thursday night and introduced at the Chiefs’ practice facility Friday.

“Every athlete has a right to think that about himself,” he said, “especially when you’ve put in a lot of work. But that’s over now. I’m here to be a teammate. I’m here to learn. A lot of guys, Pro Bowlers, Hall of Famers that I’m just trying to learn a lot from.”

Ford’s confidence should not be confused with arrogance. While the accomplished pianist’s long-term goal is to make the Hall of Fame, his short-term one is to simply fit in.

The Chiefs already have a pair of Pro Bowl pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, so Ford will have a couple of good tutors. But with Hali turning 31 during the season and Houston up for a new contract, the learning curve could also be a steep one.

Ford could be the replacement for one of them by next season.

“We clearly thought he was the second-best pass rusher in this draft,” said Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, who presumably had Ford ranked behind Clowney on his board, “I thought it was interesting, one of our scouts got a text from the head coach of Auburn and he said, ‘You just got a champion.’”

It turns out the Chiefs also got a renaissance man.

Ford began playing music by banging on pots and pans when he was about 5 years old, and then graduated to proper drums. But he apparently found his calling on the piano, picking it up when he was 12 and performing in concerts at churches around his home in Alabama.

“I don’t know how to measure” his ability, his father James Ford said, “but he can play with anybody, pretty much. He’s always played music.”

Ford said music also helps him get ready for games, putting him in the right mental state. It must work, too. He led the SEC with 10 1/2 sacks last season, despite missing Auburn’s first two games after spraining his left knee in a preseason camp.

“Before the draft, I told myself it doesn’t matter where I’m drafted because it’s out of my hands. I can’t control that,” Ford said. “I can control my work ethic and my craft. I can control what I do. So I have goals in mind that I’ve already set. And until I’m done in the NFL, I won’t cross my finish line.”

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