D'Brickashaw Ferguson is a unique individual. Not just a unique football player, though he was definitely that too, but a unique person.
Woody Johnson started the press conference for Ferguson's retirement by simply saying "wow" and you could hear the overwhelmed emotions cracking in his voice. Then Johnson spoke for about four minutes but it was one sentence that perfectly encapsulates what the man nicknamed Brick meant to this franchise, "when I look at Brick I see one of the finest players to ever be a Jet." The beauty is in the simplicity of that quote, just like the man himself.
Ferguson is 6'6" 310 pounds with a huge smile and a squeaky voice. You can't let his size fool you, off the field he's as nice and friendly as you'd expect with the squeaky voice but his teammates and opponents will tell you you can't let his squeaky voice fool you either because there's a fierce competitor inside that massive frame.
That competitive fire has been burning in Ferguson since he was nine-years-old. Ferguson started his speech off by telling his story of having open-heart surgery at the age of nine. The story has been told before, but never in such a way. Ferguson was a regular active nine-year-old interested not in football but karate when he and his parent's found out he would have to have open-heart surgery, which obviously had to scare his parents but a young Brick wasn't old enough to fully understand just how scary it was.
"This all started because a young boy who had to have open-heart surgery desperately wanted to prove his toughness, not only to himself but everybody, by playing football," Ferguson said.
After the surgery Ferguson's doctor told him he wasn't allowed to play any contact sports for an indefinite amount of time, he spoke of having to wear a chest protector just to take karate, until one day he decided he had had enough of the no-contact life. He wanted to mix it up with the other kids, he wanted that contact and he wanted to prove he could handle it. His doctor cleared him and once he got the green light the entire trajectory of his life was forever altered.
The same nine-year-old kid who couldn't play contact sports because of open heart surgery went on to be the number four overall pick in the NFL draft and play as a starting left tackle for 10 years, never once missing a game. Ferguson used that expirence as a kid to fuel him and his determination and his hard work was rewarded with a great career, but even more than that he was rewarded for being a unique person. Everyone who knows him would tell you that no one deserves this send off more and damn near everyone who knows him - his friends, family and teammates - came out to celebrate his career with him.
His wife, kids and parents were all there, no surprise of course, he had a large group of friends with him as well. The same group of friends who were with him on draft night. Then there were his teammates, and there were a lot of them. Of course Nick Mangold was there, the two were drafted in the first round in the same year, Willie Colon, Geno Smith, Tommy Bohanon, Brian Winters, Antonio Cromartie, Lorenzo Mauldin, James Carpenter, Nick Folk, Dakota Dozier, David Harris, Quincy Enunwa and even Bart Scott were all in attendance to recognize just how special of a player and a person Ferguson is.
Ferguson's decision to retire surprised a lot of people, but even though there wasn't any one specific reason or moment he could point to where he knew he was going to retire, he had felt himself coming to peace with retiring over the past year. It wasn't because he didn't love the game anymore, it wasn't because of injuries, it wasn't because of what we are learning about CTE. And while he said it wasn't about the Jets approaching him and asking him to take a pay cut, or because the Jets were looking at other left tackles in free agency, it was probably in large part because he knew the Jets would, and more importantly should, ask him to take a pay cut and had to look at other options.
Ferguson was among the best left tackles in the game for most of his career and if reporters and fans saw his play slip over the last few years you can be sure the squeaky-voiced giant did as well. Now that he knew that time had come, he decided his time in the NFL had come as well.
"It was difficult. I think not to be the guy who is automatically the left tackle was something new to me. I was taken aback," Ferguson said. "I just wasn't used to that. But at the same rate, I also recognize this happens in football. You play your game and, at a certain point, the game must end. There's a natural progression in sports. No matter who you are, there's an end."
For Brick this is the end of his football career and the start of the rest of his life and he's at peace with that. Once he made up his mind, he wasn't going back and for a football player to leave on his terms, that's the best ending he could hope for.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (email@example.com)