Bahamian Chris Ferguson left The Bahamas to play basketball at Lake Nona High School in Orlando, Florida, and now after a standout collegiate football career, he has declared for the 2020 National Football League (NFL) Draft as an offensive lineman.
The student-athlete earned his bachelor’s degree in pre-law last year. He also got a bachelor’s degree in marketing.
“Right now, I am just working out and trying to keep my body up because my agent told me there’s a Senior Bowl invite coming. Hopefully we get a combine invite. If not, we will just train and work out for Pro Day,” Ferguson said.
When asked about his interest at the next level, Ferguson said he won’t mind playing for the Baltimore Ravens or the Miami Dolphins.
“I would love to play for Lamar (Jackson),” Ferguson said. “He makes life easy. I like him as a person, his swagger, the way he carries himself and plays the game. I love that in a quarterback – a confident quarterback is a good quarterback. The Dolphins are close to home so my people can see me play if I end up there. That is really big for me because my grandparents never saw me play live.”
Ferguson admitted that it is not easy to make an NFL roster because of the vast number of athletes vying for the respective positions. He added that the bigger schools get more attention, but he is hopeful of being drafted at least by the later rounds.
“We are saying late fifth maybe. I can fall in the fourth round – there is no telling. It depends on Pro Day and it’s a good day for O-linemen to come out, so I may be able to jump up depending on a lot of factors. I haven’t looked into it too much but I don’t read into it a lot. I will just keep working and keep doing what I am doing,” Ferguson said.
The 6’ 5” 310-pounder helped the University of Cincinnati Bearcats achieve back-to-back seasons with an 11-3 win-loss record. They also won two straight bowl games. The team finished the season at number 23 in the Associated Press’ (AP) Top 25 poll.
With his team’s record and his resume, Ferguson feels that can help his draft stock, attracting more scouts.
The recent bowl game that he led his team to victory in was the Birmingham Bowl earlier this month In Birmingham, Alabama. The Bearcats drubbed Boston College, 38-6, in that game that was almost canceled due to lightning.
The Bearcats’ offensive line did a good job of opening holes in that game as they had 343 rushing yards. Also, they only gave up two sacks.
That thrashing came after a fourth quarter breakdown in the Atlantic Coast Conference (AAC) Championship game against the University of Memphis Tigers in Memphis, Tennessee, last month. The Bearcats lost that game, 29-24.
On the offensive line, Ferguson has played left tackle, left guard and right tackle. He said he likes to play left guard because he likes the contact at that position.
Ferguson said he remembers his high school days in The Bahamas quite vividly. He left C.R. Walker Senior High School in 2013 after playing basketball for Coach Trevor Grant. Grant was someone who Ferguson said lit that fire for sports in him after playing sports for leisure before playing for Grant.
At Lake Nona High School in 2013, Ferguson met football Coach Anthony Paradiso who encouraged him to try the sport of football.
He was on the offensive line in high school but was switched to the defensive line and said he liked it. Ferguson said by the end of the year, he got his first college offer, from Florida Atlantic University. That was the first of many offers that included one from the Bearcats. He said his dream school was the University of Florida Gators but they offered a scholarship too late – after he had already committed to the Bearcats.
Ferguson said he felt the brotherhood at Cincinnati unlike his visit to the University of Georgia where he said it felt like it was every man for himself and everyone in their own lane.
Once he got to Cincinnati, it was not an easy road for the towering big man. There were some challenges for the first three and a half years. He got redshirted in his freshman year.
“First of all, when I came, they told me that I am going to play defensive line. They put me into the offensive line without saying anything to me. That was the first thing that had me frustrated. I took the redshirt that year. I came back as a redshirt freshman and came back as a defensive line player and I was behind the starters who were seniors and behind them were juniors,” Ferguson said.
He decided to sit his redshirt freshman year also. He was excited for the following year – his third year, but it did not pan out like he had hoped.
“I moved back to offensive line,” Ferguson said about his third year. “Then we had a coaching change. I said it was my year to play and it’s time to go. That did not happen. Me and him (new coach) didn’t really see eye to eye. He was one of those guys who was like ‘it’s my way or the highway.’”
Ferguson said the situation did not improve and that whole staff was removed. Luke Fickell was named the 42nd head coach of the Bearcats football program.
At camp, he was fighting for a spot at right tackle. During drills, he was blocking and somebody fell on his ankle, causing an injury. He was out for half of the season and when he was healthy again, he lost the starting job. He sat out the rest of the season.
In the summer of 2017, Ferguson began to have an internal battle with himself, saying that he felt he needed to improve.
“I had a conversation with myself and I was like, ‘You have to make this happen. It is now or never. You have to get it.’ That summer I came out with a completely different mindset. When we were running in the summer no one would beat me. When we were lifting weights, I was trying to out-lift everybody. When we had tests, I was trying to out-test everybody,” Ferguson said.
He eventually got the starting position at right tackle in 2018 – a spot he never relinquished. He was named a team captain, and retained that title in his final season in 2019.
“I felt great because you had to be voted captain by the team so your teammates really had to have faith and belief in you to lead them,” Ferguson said.
He added that being a captain of a winning team raised his draft stock because it showed that he knew how to lead a winning team and professional teams want to see that leadership ability.
The talented offensive linesman attributed the team’s success this past season to Coach Fickell and the culture that he brought with him. He said that culture included toughness and accountability.
The Bearcats became the city of Cincinnati’s team. They went undefeated in their home stadium, Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, going 6-0 in both of Ferguson’s final two seasons.
For Ferguson, he said playing offensive lineman is difficult.
“It’s difficult with everything that goes into it – stance, hand placement, footwork, where your eyes are going to go, where you’re looking before the play because you can give stuff away, how much weight you have on your knuckles, how far back and wide your feet are and how wide are your splits,” he said. “Everything is technical, and you have to be locked in and zoned in on what you are doing so you don’t mess up a play because everything starts and ends with the offensive line,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said there are no health concerns and he is ready to play another game.
His support team comprises of his mother Dawnita Ferguson who pushed him all the way. He said his stepfather, grandparents and friends were there for him as well.