RUSTON – There was no disappointment, just excitement in Jazz Ferguson’s voice Saturday evening, after the Northwestern State All-America receiver took a different path than expected to the National Football League.
The 6-5, 227-pounder was surprisingly bypassed on the final day of the NFL Draft, but quickly reached agreement with the Seattle Seahawks within minutes following the completion of the draft.
“I feel just like I got drafted, to be honest. It was a long wait, and at the end of the day, I’m just very happy I’m on a team,” said Ferguson, a St. Francisville-West Feliciana product who spent the draft weekend with his family in Ruston, as his older brother Jaylon Ferguson, a star defensive end at Louisiana Tech, was a third-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens Friday night.
Pre-draft projections included speculation that Jazz Ferguson could get picked even as early as Round 3, but most predicted he’d go sometime in the final three rounds, but some said perhaps not at all. Analysts on NFL.com gave him a sixth-round projection.
Immediately after the draft ended, Ferguson tweeted “Not the first time I’ve been doubted or counted out! #GODSPLAN”
He put up record-shattering numbers in his only season on the field with the Demons, after transferring from LSU and sitting out 2017 as a walk-on to regain his academic eligibility. NSU head coach Brad Laird, who was the defensive coordinator for the Demons that season, called him “the best scout team receiver in the nation.
“That’s not just because of his skill set,” Laird said. “Jazz was a great practice player, even on the scout team when he knew he wasn’t playing on Saturdays. He was a great teammate from Day One. He showed up on Saturdays, big time, but in our program, he was a big-time player and a team leader on Wednesdays, too. He had something to prove.”
Ferguson ultimately did so with the Demons by shattering five school records while earning four FCS All-America honors, including second-team recognition from STATS LLC and third-team Associated Press accolades. He was named the Southland Conference and All-Louisiana Offensive Player of the Year after averaging 101.5 receiving yards in 11 games, all starts, with 66 catches for 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns.
That production and his skill set earned him a trip to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine in February, where he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and posted a 37-inch vertical leap. None of it mattered Saturday evening to Ferguson.
“The combine doesn’t define you, your pro day doesn’t define you. All it takes is one team to give you the opportunity to make your dream come true.
“Guys got drafted today who didn’t go to the combine, who didn’t have the production (I did) last year, and good for them. I’m just blessed to have a chance in Seattle with an organization that has a winning culture, a great head coach, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and an incredible fan base,” he said.
Going into the pro ranks undrafted didn’t shake his confidence, he said.
“Not even a little bit. I know I have potential and I’ve never been more determined to attain my goal of succeeding in the NFL.”
The last three days were filled with drama for the Fergusons, beginning early Thursday morning when a devastating tornado bounced through Ruston. His older brother was picked by Baltimore later in the night Friday than expected, then Saturday, Jazz’s name wasn’t called in the draft, although his phone and his agents roared to life in the waning stages as NFL teams explored free agent possibilities. He came to terms with the Seahawks about a half-hour following the last pick.
“I learned that I would be doubted no matter what,” he said. “It makes you want to go harder, compete harder against the top talent, to show you belong.”
His college coach has no doubt that he does, and particularly with how his road to the NFL took an unexpected turn Saturday. Ferguson knows how to defy odds, said Laird.
“What a great day for Jazz Ferguson, his family, and Northwestern State University as he has the opportunity to take his talents to the NFL,” Laird said. “His path to get there, overcoming adversity and personal setbacks, will drive him to be successful.
“The Seattle Seahawks are not only getting a great football player, but they are also getting a young man that will be great in the locker room and the community,” he said. “All of us associated with NSU football are very proud for him.”