Louisiana State University Tigers
Hargrave Military Academy
Saint John's Catholic Preparatory School
Do not be fooled by Ferguson's statistics — he was a vital cog to the success of the Tigers in 2013, playing the part of "taking out the trash" by occupying multiple blockers, so the linebacker unit had room to make the plays. Last season was Ferguson's first, and last, as a starter, but he provided needed leadership upfront for a defensive squad that was reeling from a big graduation class and massive underclass defections after the 2012 schedule.
Louisiana State returned only three starters on defense from the unit they sent out on to the field the previous year. One, safety Craig Loston, spent more time on the sidelines than on the field, thanks to nagging injuries. None of the four starters on the 2012 front wall returned and the only "inside the box" performer to suit up with the first unit both seasons was weak-side linebacker Lamin Barrow.
Ferguson more than lived up to the task the coaches assigned for him — just clog the middle and attack multiple blockers. He would finish fifth on the team and lead the front wall with a career-high 58 tackles, despite being mysteriously absent from the Tigers clash vs. Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
The three other starters on the defensive line took advantage of the opportunities afforded them while Ferguson was going to war with the opposition's offensive linemen. Anthony Johnson, Danielle Hunter and Jermauria Rasco, Ferguson's line-mates, got into the back-field to record a combined 11 sacks (team had 27) and 27.0 tackles behind the line of scrimmage (Tigers collected 69 for the season). 19 of the team's thirty-one quarter-back pressures were registered by that quartet up front.
Ferguson was regarded as one of the best defensive end prospects in high school football in 2009. Scout.com considered him the seventh-best defensive end prospect after he posted 97 tackles with 14 sacks and 32.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage as a junior. The previous season, he delivered 10.5 sacks and 89 tackles during his sophomore campaign.
Looking for what Ferguson called "stiffer competition" to play against he decided to transfer prior to his senior prep season, enrolling at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia, more than 250 miles away from home. "I look at it like I'm graduating early," Ferguson said. "St. John's will always be in my heart. No matter what happens I'm always going to be from St. John's and come back and support the school."
Ferguson, who appeared on every major Class of 2010 recruiting list, decided to depart from Butterfly Lane in order to line up against stiffer competition of a bigger, faster and stronger nature. Many of Ferguson's Tiger teammates are highly-touted Division I prospects, some have already graduated from high school.
"The reason why I decided to go to Hargrave is because of my competitive nature," Ferguson said. "I don't want to settle for being number 14 in the country. I want to be number one. And if that means playing on better competition level, which you can't play at any high school, then that's what I have to do to get that competition level."
Attending Hargrave allowed Ferguson to graduate in December, 2009 and he was able to enroll at Louisiana State a semester early in 2010. By arriving on the college campus in January, Ferguson was allotted a head start on fellow classmates by participating in spring practice.
The decision to head south wasn't easy. Ferguson discussed the move with his father, Ego Ferguson Sr., as well as Vikings' head coach James Ward. Together they agreed it was the right move for both the standout's pigskin and academic careers. "Every year he's become more mature," Ego Ferguson Sr. said about his son. "That decision was largely his. I viewed it as a win-win, but he pretty much embraced the whole process."
The lineage of former Tigers within professional and collegiate athletic ranks is long and distinguished. Hargrave alumni include Jacksonville Jaguars' wide receiver and Super Bowl Champion, Tory Holt, San Diego Chargers' linebacker Jyles Tucker and former Linganore basketball great Joe Alexander of the Milwaukee Bucks.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, Ferguson was a two-time first-team All-Gazette selection at St. John's. At Hargrave, he recorded 67 tackles with 12 sacks. He concluded his prep career by participating in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, in January 2010.
Ferguson's hope for playing as a true freshman at Louisiana State, thanks to his early arrival, never materialized. With four returning All-Southeastern Conference performers up front, the Tigers staff felt that their recruit was better off being redshirted. He would line up with the second unit for 13 games in 2011, finishing with 13 tackles.
It was more of the same for the youngster in 2012 — battling for playing time on a squad that featured eight players in their final season at LSU. In 13 games as a reserve, the weak-side defensive tackle delivered 14 tackles, but only one came from behind the line of scrimmage.
With the massive defections, Ferguson staked claim to one of the tackle spots opposite All-SEC performer Anthony Johnson. He started the first 12 games on the schedule in 2013, registering 58 tackles, as he had his only career sack among 3.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. All three of his quarterback pressures came on third-down snaps.
Ferguson did not travel with the team to Tampa for the Outback Bowl vs. the Iowa Hawkeyes because of an undisclosed medical condition, according to Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com. His source could not disclose the nature of the condition. There were rumors that the defensive tackle was potentially suspended, but head coach Les Miles confirmed that it was due to an illness and that the player was not suspended in a statement prior to the game's kickoff.
Immediately after, Ferguson announced via Instagram that he was not returning to college next season and that at he will declare for the 2014 NFL Draft. His post read: "First off I want to thank god without him none of this would be possible I also want to thank my parents for always being in my corner since day one. I want to thank coaches too for giving me the chance to play in front of the best fans in college football.
These past four years have been amazing. Without my teammates I don't know where I would be right now. They were more than teammates, they were my bruddas. After talking to my parents and praying about this decision I decided to enter the 2014 NFL draft #blessed #squad #familyfirst."
One day earlier, his defensive tackle partner, Anthony Johnson had declared for the draft.
With his next stop being the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, Ferguson began working out to prepare for the agility tests, but due to a right ankle injury, he was not given medical clearance to perform in the speed drills.
Still, teams could see during weigh-in that Ferguson has a the thick frame needed to develop into a very good gap-control defensive tackle. Game films highlight his improved hand usage and his sudden burst off the snap, along with the lateral agility to pursue long distances. During 2013 fall camp, he opened eyes when he was timed at 4.98 seconds in the 40-yard dash, an impressive performance for any 315-pound athlete.
Ferguson appeared in 38 games for Louisiana State, starting his final 12 contests at weak-side (right) defensive end…Finished with 85 tackles (24 solos), one sack for minus 15 yards, five stops for losses of 19 yards and three quarterback pressures…Also had five pass deflections.