Ford, who was nominated alongside the New Zealand duo of Sam Cane and Luke Whitelock, is the first Englishman to claim the award.
Voted for by team head coaches and match officials, as well as international and local media, Ford’s award was announced at the IRB Awards 2011, in association with Emirates Airline, at the Vector Arena in Auckland on Monday.
The 18-year-old is the youngest player in Tigers history after making his debut against Leeds Carnegie in the LV= Cup two seasons ago. And he became the fourth youngest player to start a Premiership game for Tigers against Exeter Chiefs on the opening day of the season.
Ford was the youngest player at the Junior World Championship in Italy in June, scoring 54 points in helping England Under-20s to the final.
Ford said: “It’s a massive honour especially when you consider the calibre of player who have won it in the past as well as the others (Cane and Whitelock) nominated.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found out to be honest, but I’ve got to be quick to point out that rugby is not an individual sport. All of the lads were awesome throughout the whole campaign and I’d like to think that I’m picking the award up on behalf of them.”
Richard Cockerill, Tigers director of rugby, said: “We’re delighted for Fordy. It is a big achievement and a reflection of the hard work that he puts in to his game, and the work that goes on.
“He did really well at the Junior World Championships in the summer and, after coming through the Tigers Academy, has made the step up to the first team and really fronted up.
“For a young man, he has a good skill-set, understands the game well and works really hard on his game. He is still 18, his game is developing all of the time and will continue to improve.”
Previous winners of the award include the likes of Luke McAlister, Isaia Toeava and Jerome Kaino.
Meanwhile, Tigers legends Martin Johnson CBE and Sir Clive Woodward and former Tigers coach Bob Dwyer were inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame. They were joined by the other World Cup-winning captains and coaches David Kirk, Nick Farr-Jones, Francois Pienaar, John Smit, Sir Brian Lochore, Kitch Christie, Rod Macqueen and Jake White.
France captain Thierry Dusautoir was named the IRB Player of the Year, World Champions New Zealand were the Team of the Year and their coach Graham Henry was Coach of the Year