Forget about Carmen Sandiego. Before he joined the Jets, people could have asked where in the world is Nick Ferguson?
A native of Miami, he was a walk-on at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, and then traveled across town and was a walk-on again at Georgia Tech.
Not chosen during the 1996 NFL Draft, Ferguson would go on to play for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League, and in Dusseldorf, Germany for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe. He also went to training camp but was released by three NFL teams: Cincinnati, Chicago and Buffalo. Through it all, the safety's positive attitude never wavered.
"I grew up a football fan, and every kid has dreams and aspirations of one day playing on Sunday," Ferguson said. "We know that doesn't always happen, but I just always felt as though it was in the cards for me at some point. It would happen as long as I continue to put my best foot forward.
"I guess I got that attitude and that drive from my mom and my grandfather. They were kind of really quiet people, but, man, they had a drive like no one else that I've seen. After watching them sacrifice their time and their effort for the family, I was like, if you want anything out of life, you have to put that time in and just hope and pray that it would all work out in the end."
Ending up on the Bills' practice squad in 2000, Ferguson was claimed by the Jets with seven games left in the season. Finally going to be placed on the active roster of an NFL team, he'd have to be excited, right? Well…
"When I got the call that the Jets wanted to pick me up, I was a little bit nervous," Ferguson said. "The reason I was a little hesitant is because I'd never been to New York City before. But the biggest thing was Bill Parcells. Obviously being a young player, I knew about Bill Parcells and I knew how hard he drives his players.
"There was a video I saw when I was with Buffalo. He was just kind of yelling at one of his wide receivers, just giving him the business. And I was like, 'Yeah, I don't know if I want to deal with that type of a coach.'"
Granted, Al Groh was the head coach when Ferguson reported to the Jets, but Parcells was in his first season solely as the general manager and clearly calling the shots. While Ferguson's concerns were understandable, he'd discover they were for naught.
"When I first came in from Buffalo, I had to be at the facility around 4:45 in the morning to meet with (defensive backs coach) Todd Bowles so he could start teaching me the defense," Ferguson said. "I'm sitting there waiting for Todd and Bill Parcells walks by and looks into the room and keeps walking. And I say to myself, 'Keep walking, keep walking,' because I didn't want to deal with Parcells that early in the morning.
"But then he came back and came in the room and closed the door. Now, when you're a player and someone in the front office closes the door behind you, usually they're not about to deliver good news. So I'm thinking, 'Man, I just got here and this dude is about to cut me already? I didn't have a chance to really do anything.'
"So he closed the door and embarks on this hour-long conversation where he tells me about how long that he's monitored my career in Georgia Tech, going to NFL Europe, going into the CFL. He said that he always admired players who were driven to overcome issues and adversity in their lives. And he said, basically, that if I continue to work as hard as I did to get me to the Jets at this point, I will eventually play 10 years in the NFL.
"And at that point in my career, I was happy being in the NFL, but I didn't know what was down the road. I had no idea. But it was that moment, that hour with Bill Parcells, that really changed my life as a player. That gave me the inspiration and the confidence to say, 'You know what, I can play in this league a long time because Bill Parcells told me that I could.'"
Parcells was right. Playing in the December 3 game against Indianapolis, Ferguson broke up two key passes, and then in the fourth quarter, picked off Colts quarterback Peyton Manning for his first NFL career interception, helping New York win, 27-17.
"I was brought in to be a backup to Victor Green, but also become a special teams ace," Ferguson said. "And playing on special teams, there was something that Bill Parcells saw in me that he wanted to give me an opportunity against the Colts. So they put in a special package where we had three safeties on the field: me, Scott Frost, and Victor Green.
"That was a big game for us because it was freaking Peyton Manning. I mean, he was the next coming of Johnny Unitas. And I'll say this, true transparency, I was a little nervous. And the reason I was nervous was not because I was fearful of Peyton, it was the fact that I'd be letting down Al Groh, (defensive coordinator) Mike Nolan, and Bill Parcells. But once we started the game, all of that kind of went away."
With New York for three seasons, Ferguson went on to play for Denver and Houston. A 10-year NFL career with seven interceptions and 420 combined tackles, 329 solo.
Now making their home in Denver, Ferguson and his wife, Galadriel, have two sons: Isaiah and Kenzou; and a daughter: Anjali.
"I've been in media, oddly enough, because after being in New York, I wanted no part of it," Ferguson said. "And then I found myself walking down the path where people were just like, 'Man, you speak so well. You do a lot of good things and analyze the game well. You should go and audition to media.' And that's where I found myself.
"After my football days. I was doing national radio in Los Angeles for CBS Radio, TuneIn, and NBC Sports Radio. And then I had that itch to coach and I coached with the 49ers for a bit. And then when my contract ran out with the 49ers (after the 2018 season), someone in Denver came to me with an opportunity to do media. And I had a show called The Nick and Cecil Show, but on June 10, my program director decided to relieve me of my duty. So right now, I'm looking for other media opportunities.
"If that doesn't happen, I'm looking into writing a book about the things that I've encountered as a player in my flight because usually, undrafted players don't play 10 years in the NFL. So my plan is to start working on that book, and trying to book some speaking engagements. But until then, I'm just going to see what happens on the media side of it and continue to do my work here helping out the community."