D'Brickashaw Ferguson reflected Tuesday on his team's start and the keys to being successful the rest of the year when talking to a full auditorium at Harrison High School, the prize-winning school of the four-year-old Eat Right, Move More program.
"When the season isn't going as well as you'd hope, this is when you really have to pull together as a team," the Jets tackle told the Harrison students. "This is when you rely on the people right next to you because outside sources will look at you and say, 'Well, you guys don't have it,' and try and take shots at you."
The fourth-year left tackle has faced a lot of doubters in his life so far. At 9 years old he had to have heart surgery and was unsure if he'd be able to play any sport let alone one of the most violent. He was embarrassed to be the only boy in his school who had to wear a chest protector while boxing in gym class.
"Don't pity me," he would say, and he held onto his "goals" and "desires" deciding to play football because "it was one of the hardest things I could think of to do. I would tell people, 'Don't put limits on me. I'm bigger than that.' "
His college offensive line coach at Virginia used to give him a hard time to the point where Brick thought he was being "attacked" and singled out.
"The same things I dealt with in college, ridicule and all those things, I've dealt with tenfold in the league," he replied.
When he got to the Jets and the NFL, some questioned if he was a justifiable first-round pick and counted him out after every bad game.
"A lot of times you think of a person that you can't get away from. They make your life hard for whatever reason," he told the students. "It's usually in preparation for what you're going to deal with in the future.
"I carry that chip on my shoulder at every game for every play. One thing about football is there is no running away."
Despite losing five of the last six, the Jets' season is far from over, and Brick and his teammates are not going to stop fighting.
"This is an important part, where you have to really recognize that it starts here, it's going to end here," he said. "We're going to do it together. When things get rough, it's not that it's over, it's just that you have to pull in a little bit tighter and really get it going."
Brick was asked why the Jets lose games they should win.
"At the end of the day, it's all about execution," he said. "You can be prepared, you can have the game plan ready, but if you don't execute in all three phases of the game, you're going to lose. It's a real thing. It's the National Football League. You can't look at any one team and say, 'Well, look at their record, we're going to beat them,' because every Sunday the team that executes the best will be successful."
Former Jets QB Ray Lucas, a Harrison alumnus who also spoke Tuesday, said the 6'6", 310-pound Ferguson is in great shape because "he takes care of his body, he takes his profession very seriously."
The Jets presented the school with a $5,000 check, which it plans to use to purchase a refrigerated salad bar stocked with local produce to encourage the students to eat better. The students were not too excited at first about upgrading to more healthy food choices. But after hearing him speak, they seemed willing to give Brick's advice — "It's more than just fruits and vegetables. It's more of a mindset" — a try.
Members of the football team were honored to sit in the front two rows to be up close to Brick and will use his words to help motivate them to finish the season, regardless of their 2-7 record.
"How he never gave up and at a point he wanted to quit but he just kept going and he ended up where he wanted to be," said Harrison WR Ricky Touzet. "I don't eat too good, but after hearing this, it makes me want to eat better to get bigger and stronger and faster."
Standing in front of an auditorium of seniors, juniors and select sophomores, Brick shared some healthful eating tips for the youngsters as they go out and accomplish their goals. Nick Landry, the Blue Tide's head coach, was happy to hear the message come from someone else.
"Despite our record, you learn other things in life. You learn how to persevere, you make friendships, you build relationships," Landry said. "In your life you learn how to overcome adversity by what happens on the football field."
"No matter what area you come from, I don't care if you're an athlete, I don't care if you're just content with doing your studies," said Brick. "It's all going to start with eating right and moving more."