Jerry Ford, while known for his football exploits, was a well-rounded athlete during his high school years. He also competed in track, basketball, and swimming. Danny Rose, the South High physical education teacher who had helped Ford receive a knee operation during the spring of his senior year, was also the basketball coach. To repay Rose for his help, Ford joined the team following football season his senior year. He was not an especially talented offensive player, but was an asset on defense. “[Rose] would kid me about my lack of production on field goals,” Ford later wrote, “but praise me for holding down the scoring of the other team’s best shooter.”
Jerry had learned to swim at a very young age from summers spent at Ottawa Beach on Lake Michigan with his family, and he swam competitively with the YMCA team during the spring of his senior year. Simultaneously, he was on the South High track team, attending meets all over the state. These were his last athletic experiences of his high school career. “Athletics, my parents kept saying, built a boy’s character,” Ford recalled in his memoir, and he took that advice to heart as a youth.