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D'MAN Behind D' NAME
NUNYO DEMASIO
April 10, 2006
He's more than a memorable moniker--D'Brickashaw Ferguson will be the first offensive lineman drafted this year and an NFL cornerstone for decades
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April 10, 2006

D'man Behind D' Name

He's more than a memorable moniker--D'Brickashaw Ferguson will be the first offensive lineman drafted this year and an NFL cornerstone for decades

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D'Brickashaw 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 chance."

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 Charlottesville.

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.

Instead, Ferguson 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.

Corie: "Say that name one more time?"

Ferguson, slowly: "De-brick-a-shaw."

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