Ferguson Cool Under Pressure

Juco prospect from California anxious to plow into the quarterback competition at Penn State. He arrived in Happy Valley Friday.

Prepared by a cold front in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., that greeted him with 23-degree weather Thursday morning, Tyler Ferguson was more adjusted to the chills he would experience at University Park than some might have imagined.

The signal-caller took his first steps on University Park soil Friday morning, and he's as excited as ever for a new home, a new start, a new team.

“I hope to be the best that I can be physically, mentally with helping the team as much as possible,” Ferguson said on the eve of his departure, signifying his first trip to the Keystone State. “I can honestly look at successful college football teams, and some people say, 'Well, he's good, but the team isn't very good.' I want to be the player that helps the team tremendously through the ups and downs, and help them be successful.”

At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Ferguson has been training on his own in the days leading up to the start of the spring semester at Penn State. He is enrolling at PSU after spending last season at College of the Sequoias, a junior college in his home state of California.

As his car's engine warmed up on his final chilly Bakersfield morning, he reflected on what all of it will do for his future.

“I've been doing some cross-fit training and things of that nature,” Ferguson said. “But nothing I can do by myself at the gym will be quite equivalent to a Penn State football workout program. I think I'm as strong as I can be up to this point, and I hope all the hard work pays off.”

Of course, hard work is the hallmark of Nittany Lion strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald's program. Ferguson fires off all the reasons he can't wait to get started working with Fitzgerald and his staff.

“I can't wait to get things going. I love fitness and working out,” Ferguson noted. “I'm excited to get going with Coach Fitz. It's a Division I program, and I've heard great things about it, but that it's very challenging. I love challenges in the weight room, though, so I can't wait for it to start.”

There's also an element of mental strength and preparedness involved in Ferguson's daily routine. Once the ink dried on his written commitment Dec. 19 (JUCO signing day), the quarterback received and began to delve deep into the Nittany Lions' playbook, learning terminology in twice-a-day sessions.

“I've really been in the playbook every day since they sent it out,” Ferguson said. “I'm trying to learn as much of it as I possibly can before I get there. I haven't looked at the plays much -- more the terminology, the audibles and the reads. It's like learning a new language, so you just make flash cards and have at it.”

Of course, all of Bill O'Brien's extensive playbook cannot be learned in a span of weeks, so Ferguson is starting at the top and working his way down under the guidance of Penn State quarterbacks' coach Charlie Fisher.

“I talk to Coach Fisher at least once a day, sometimes twice a day, and the way they break the playbook down is great,” Ferguson said. “They break it down like we need you to know this stuff. If you get to this (other) stuff, great, but you don't need to worry about (it) yet. I usually look over it during breakfast in the morning and then spend some time with it at night. Probably about 3.5 hours a day I look over it.”

The interview for this story was conducted shortly before O'Brien announced he would bypass NFL opportunities to stick with the Nittany Lions, so Ferguson was not in position to address that situation. But he was happy to talk about his new roommate at Penn State -- talented redshirt freshman wideout Eugene Lewis.

“We've been kind of talking, and I've been asking him little things about what I need and don't need to bring, and things like that,” Ferguson said. “I got a lot of the questions answered that I would have gotten answered on a visit, so it was nice having that help. It's cool having someone like him for the this-and-that questions that I have.”

Cool is what Ferguson hopes his experience is like at Penn State. The weather will certainly chip into that view right off the bat. But Ferguson hopes he can be ice cold under pressure, too, as he competes with sophomore-to-be Steven Bench and a gaggle of run-ons (star QB recruit Christian Hackenberg does not arrive at PSU until the summer) for playing time at quarterback for the Nittany Lions.

“I mean, what they have there is everything a quarterback could ask for. That's what pulled me there,” Ferguson said. “Everything is in your hands. Some schools, you look to the sideline, get the play if it doesn't work you turn around and get another play. Coach O'Brien really stressed to me preparing for the NFL.

“I just want to do the best I can, and like I said, help the team in any way I can.”

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