For Chicago Bears second-round defensive tackle Ego Ferguson, declaring for the draft at the end of his junior year at LSU was a difficult decision, but a necessary one. His family needed him and Ego was more than willing to step up.
"My mom, Brenda Bryant, got hurt on the job and I felt it was my time to take some of the family's financial burden off of her and assume it for myself," Ferguson said shortly after he was selected.
Ferguson characterized his mother as a "strong woman who had the difficult job of raising myself and my brothers mostly by herself. She never complained and never put her own needs ahead of ours. For that I will be eternally grateful."
The 2013 season was Ferguson's first, and last, season as a starter for LSU but he provided leadership for a defensive squad decimated by a big graduation class and numerous underclass defections.
"I stepped up and did what I felt needed to be done for the defensive unit of the Tigers," Ferguson said.
Ferguson was regarded as one of the nation's top high school defensive end prospects in 2009. As a junior he posted 97 tackles with 14 sacks at Saint John's Catholic Preparatory School. His senior year, Ferguson transferred to Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia, more than 250 miles form his Mims, Florida home.
"My dad and I discussed the move at length," Ferguson said. "We decided to view it as an early move to college. Relocating was something I wanted and needed to do in order to further my athletic career. Hargrave provided an extremely high level of athletic competition and I thrived on that."
Ferguson missed the final LSU game of his junior season due to an unspecified violation of team rules. He admitted the punishment was just and that it was a learning experience that was extremely painful at the time.
"How disappointing was it to watch my last LSU game form home?" Ferguson said. "I can't even put that into words. But I believe that everything happens for a reason and it was something I learned from."
The Bears flew Ferguson to Halas Hall before his pro day, giving the young player ample time to speak to coaches.
"These are great people here. I felt at home almost immediately and knew I could contribute in a positive manner to this team."
What, exactly, does Ferguson feel he can bring to the Bears?
"I'm athletic, I move around well, I'm fast, and definitely fiercely competitive," he said. "I am willing to do whatever it takes to get that win. I know some experts kind of dissed me in the draft saying I'd be a reach to get picked in the early rounds but I take that as a challenge. My job is to prove those experts wrong through my play on the field."
Ferguson missed the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine due to a high ankle sprain that occurred during positional drills but he was confident that his production at LSU would speak for itself.
"I knew I was ready for the NFL and that I could come in and contribute. My job was to convince the coaches during my visit to Chicago that I could add positives to their team."
Ferguson's other job was to take care of his mom.
"It's appropriate that this weekend is Mother's Day," Ferguson said. "I owe everything to her. We all do. Getting this opportunity to take care of her through my profession is an incredible thing. I want her to know how grateful I am and how hard I will try to succeed as my way of thanking her."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.