MADISON – Most kids in Jake Ferguson's position don’t need a big reveal on national signing day to announce where they are going to play college football.
With his grandfather being the school’s athletic director and his older brother a soon-to-be senior on the team, Ferguson happily gave his commitment to the Wisconsin football program in March, a little more than 10 months before he could make it official. That didn’t mean he couldn’t have a little fun in the process.
At a signing day ceremony at his school, the Madison Memorial tight end mimicked a lot of national recruits by putting three bucket hats on the table and picked his school of choice. The only difference was the three hats had the Wisconsin “Motion W” emblem on them, causing him to “agonize” over his choice before he plopped one on his head.
“I’ve got a goofy personality I think,” Ferguson said. “You see the stuff on Twitter with the people with three hats. People already know where I’m going, and I had three hats, so I wanted to have some fun.”
One of 18 scholarship players in Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class, Ferguson certainly had a football career to be pleased about. A multi-tooled athlete, Ferguson played slot receiver, inside linebacker, punter and wherever else he was asked to. Finishing his career on offense with 1,795 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns and 314 total tackles, 29 TFLs, five sacks, five interceptions and four forced fumbles on defense, Ferguson will start at tight end for the Badgers.
“It’s definitely a great feeling and a weight off my shoulders,” Ferguson said. “I have to focus here for Memorial basketball, but at the same time staying healthy, keeping in the weight room and get my body ready for the next level.”
For a brief moment Ferguson thought his master plan of playing this basketball one more season for the Spartans backfired. In Saturday’s 57-54 win over Janesville Craig, Ferguson’s steal and subsequent layup resulted in him landing awkwardly on his left knee and crumpling to the ground in the second half.
The first thought that went through his mind? ACL.
“I thought it was something serious,” Ferguson said. “When the trainer said it wasn’t, I was trying to talk to some guys and tell them to win the game.”
The victory by the Spartans (17-3, 13-3 Big Eight) keeps them in a first-place tie with Sun Prairie – led by high-major 2020 guard Jalen Johnson – a top of the conference standings with two games to go. Two more wins would give Madison Memorial 14 straight conference titles.
“I think the Big Eight is one of the toughest conferences in the state,” Ferguson said. “You got to bring everything every single night. Everybody has got to play on their game, got to play together and there’s no margin for error in the Big Eight. You have to play your best every single game.”
Fortunately for Memorial, the Spartans have many scoring options to account for. Although senior forward Chris Knight is averaging 15.8 points per game, the Spartans have four players averaging between 7.1 and 6.9 points per game. Ferguson is one of them. The 6-6 senior scored six points in the victory over Craig despite missing most of the first half with foul trouble and the final 7:34 with his knee injury.
“In practice we try to spread the ball around and not just have Chris score every single time,” Ferguson said, smiling. “They translates on to the court at game time. We as a team have played together for a long time, so we know how each other play.”
In addition to getting his knee healthy, Ferguson listed strength training as one of the big things he needed to work on before enrolling in college for the summer. The bulk of that work will come later, as Ferguson’s main goal – besides making it to the Kohl Center for the state tournament – is to have as much fun as humanely possible.
“It’s definitely fun getting a win and the practices are fun, but at the same time you have to keep working while you’re having fun,” he said. “I’m playing with my second family.”