The Brick Has It All
By: Elaine Delos Reyes, special to NFL.com
D'Brickashaw Ferguson has it all: talent, dedication, and a genuine passion to give back to the community. And now that the long-awaited draft is over, he is ready to bring his talent to the next level with the Jets.
It's hard to imagine D'Brickashaw Ferguson running up and down a basketball court. But the 6-foot-6, 295-pound offensive tackle from the University of Virginia actually contemplated playing the sport when he was younger. Ferguson's height and weight was considered undersized by National Football League standards, typically upwards of 325 pounds.
He simply wasn't big enough to be an offensive lineman for the NFL, right?
"Around 11th grade, I put on size and realized that I could play with these guys and be a dominating factor," Ferguson told reporters on Saturday. "I realized that there was place for me on the next level."
"The Brick" was drafted fourth overall by the New York Jets during the 71st Annual NFL Draft in New York City on April 29. Radio City Music Hall was splashed with fans wearing green and white chanting, "J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets!" Before posing for pictures with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Ferguson made sure to flash a smile to the cheering fans.
The smile on his face reassured fans that what Ferguson may lack in size, he makes up in quality. Ferguson compares his style to that of Lomas Brown, a former Detroit Lion and premier offensive tackle during his 10-year career from 1985-1995.
"To look at a quality offensive lineman like Brown - a tall, skinny guy with long arms, it speaks volumes to me…I could see that even though he was not 315 pounds, he could still be a great player. I aspired to be as good as him, even better," said Ferguson, who started playing football in 8th grade.
Let's not forget that the Brick is a black belt in karate. Freeport High school (NY) Coach Russ Cellan believes that martial arts may have helped with his punch in pass protection. Cellan first coached Ferguson when he joined varsity as a sophomore when Freeport reached the playoffs. He was originally 215 pounds when he moved into the offensive tackle position.
"My coach always told me to have a plan in mind," said Ferguson. "He taught me the importance of staying grounded, never forgetting where you come from, and always trying your best, no matter how hopeless a situation is."
This anti-quitting approach is the reason why Ferguson boasts such an exceptional high school resume. He recorded 55 tackles, six sacks, and eight quarterback hurries as a defensive end his senior year and was three-year starter. He was rated by Super-Prep as the top offensive lineman in New York. The Freeport Devil also received the Thorpe Award as Nassau County's top player, becoming the first lineman to win the award since 1979. And while the list goes on and on, Ferguson was considerate to mention that even though he is proud of these accomplishments, he's even more proud to make the time to volunteer and give back to the community.
"As a student-athlete, a lot of your time is taken up with athletics and academics, so your week fills up quickly. It's hard to break those types of commitments, but it's just as important to commit to the community, even if it means getting in 2-3 hours here and there."
A couple of days before the Draft, Ferguson was joined by other top NFL prospects Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Reggie Bush, Mario Williams, and Vernon Davis to take part in the NFL "Get Fit" event, promoting the importance of getting active to local youth. "Get Active" is part of a national NFL fitness campaign that motivates and inspires activity among today's youth. The players visited Junior High School 13 in New York City and exercised with over 50 children. Despite having a jump rope too short to encircle his large figure, Ferguson broke a sweat jumping rope with the students.
The next day, the Draftees visited pediatric patients at Mount Sinai Medical Center. The youngsters, some recovering from cancer, had an opportunity to interview the players. "These children are in difficult situations," said Ferguson, who underwent an operation when he was nine-years-old in order to correct a heart murmur. "You want to focus on the positive things. You have to turn negatives into positive situations."
Ferguson has it all: talent, dedication, and a genuine passion to give back to the community. And now that the long-awaited draft is over, he's ready to work hard and bring his talent to the next level.
"I don't think there could be a better feeling," said Ferguson. "I love the Jets…this is a dream come true."