eventually persuaded Rhunette to let him resume martial arts, but hard-core
team sports remained off-limits. As he entered seventh grade, though,
D'Brickashaw became more insistent about playing football, and Rhunette finally
said she'd allow it if a cardiologist approved, certain that the doctor would
side with her. After the examination, Rhunette said to the doctor,
"D'Brickashaw feels that he can play football. Would you please tell him
that's one of the sports not recommended?'"
The doctor looked
at D'Brickashaw and deadpanned, "I don't know what to tell your mom, but
maybe you should tell her that you can play."
The response made
Rhunette's jaw drop--but she was happy for her son. "She didn't want her
baby to get hurt," says D'Brickashaw, "but I knew this was my
At a gangly
6'3", 215 pounds, he joined the high school varsity football team as a left
tackle in the 10th grade. The starting left guard was a 300-pounder, making
Ferguson resemble a tight end in a funky formation. But Ferguson improved so
quickly that as a senior he was named the top high school football player in
Long Island's Nassau County--the first time in more than two decades that the
award had gone to a lineman. A number of top Division I schools recruited him,
including Michigan State and Syracuse, though he was told by some that he would
have to bulk up to play tackle at that level. Virginia, enticed by his
athleticism, didn't quibble about his weight. Ferguson, a National Honor
Society student whose older brother was studying at Virginia, selected
As a 245-pound
freshman in 2002 Ferguson was the lightest starting offensive tackle in the
ACC. Nevertheless, he started every game and was named a freshman All-America.
As a sophomore Ferguson didn't allow a sack, but he was already hearing that he
was too small to make the NFL. In the off-season before his junior year, he
revamped his diet: Each day he consumed a six-pack of Ensure Plus, the
protein-heavy drink for building muscle, to supplement his three regular meals.
"I thought I would gain maybe 10 pounds," he says.
gained 30 and checked in for his junior season at a well-toned 295 pounds. He
made the All--ACC first team and was suddenly a top draft prospect. But
Ferguson turned down the prospect of a pro contract worth as much as $25
million to return for his senior year and finish his degree. "I just wanted
to make sure I went to the NFL totally prepared," Ferguson says.
There was a small
scare when, in a Sept. 24 game against Duke, he left in the first quarter with
a knee injury. But it proved minor, and Ferguson, who had started 42 straight
games from 2002 to '04, missed just two starts and was named All-America. Now
NFL teams are lining up for the chance to draft a player who could be a
franchise left tackle in the mold of Walter Jones of Seattle, Jonathan Ogden of
Baltimore and Chris Samuels of Washington. He's expected to be among the first
five selections, which would make him the highest pick out of Virginia since
Bill Dudley in 1942. "Whoever gets him," says Houston Texans G.M.
Charley Casserly, "will be very happy."
Ferguson may be
small by NFL offensive line standards, but at an Italian restaurant in Orlando
he was mammoth enough to draw stares from patrons. His waitress, Corie,
inevitably asked whether he played football, leading to an exchange that has
become familiar to Ferguson.
that name one more time?"