Freeport is D'Brickashaw's kind of team
It happened a decade ago on the final play of the 2000 Long Island Class I football championship game. Ferguson, a junior at Freeport, played on both the offensive and defensive lines. Freeport, which hadn't lost a game all season, suddenly found itself leading by only one point, 20-19, after Commack scored a touchdown in overtime. And now Commack quarterback Mike Prahalis, who already had tied the state single-season record with 33 touchdown passes, was attempting to win it with a two-point conversion pass.
"They had just scored, and if they kicked it, we would have gone into double overtime," Ferguson said. "Instead, they decided to go for the win. It was one of those this-is-it moments. It was like everything slowed down, because everyone on the field and everyone at the game knew this was going to determine it all.
"Eddie Gordon was our middle linebacker, and when their quarterback rolled out, he blitzed and we won the game. It was just an incredible feeling."
Ferguson, now a 6-6, 310- pound offensive tackle, has since played in some pretty big contests, including last year's AFC Championship Game against the Colts. But the Pro Bowler says the thrill of playing for a Long Island championship ranks right up there with the thrill of playing for a Super Bowl berth.
This is one of the reasons he hopes his schedule will allow him to get to Hofstra this afternoon to see Freeport play Floyd and try to earn another Long Island title.
"That game is their Super Bowl," Ferguson said. "That's how I felt when I played. It's a big game and it means a lot to everyone on the field."
Freeport, the football team, and Freeport, the town, have continued to mean a lot to Ferguson, even though he lives in New Jersey to be closer to the Jets' practice facility. And he clearly means a lot to them.
The section on South Ocean Street where Ferguson grew up has been named D'Brickashaw Ferguson Way. When Freeport won the Long Island Class I championship two years ago, Ferguson bought every kid on the team a letter jacket. His D'Brickashaw Ferguson Foundation has provided academic scholarships to students in the Freeport area and now is launching a mentoring program designed to help students making the transition from high school to college.
"He's very supportive of the team," Freeport coach Russ Cellan said. "He's also very down- to-earth. He doesn't come here demanding special treatment. It's like he's a regular guy who used to play in our program.
"He's always been one of those guys who could talk to anyone, fit in anywhere. He was the kind of guy who could go into the locker room and be friends with everyone there, and then go into the band room and fit right in there. He could have probably gone into the faculty room and fit in there, too, if he wanted."
Ferguson credits Freeport for teaching him a number of life lessons that have helped him become successful. One of the biggest lessons came after his freshman year when he was thinking of no longer playing football because he wasn't as good as he wanted to be.
"Like a lot of kids, he wanted instant success," said Ferguson's father, Ed. "I talked to him about not quitting and his coaches talked to him about not quitting. I think he didn't want to be known as someone who quit, so he stuck it out. He just always wanted to be the best at whatever he did."
Ferguson was considered the best offensive lineman in the country when the Jets took him out of the University of Virginia with the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft. Since then, he has started every game for them at left tackle.
Said Ferguson: "I'm playing on a whole different stage right now, but I think a lot of the things that made me successful are things that I learned at Freeport. It was really a positive atmosphere there. They expected excellence out of us, and we started expecting it from ourselves. I have a lot of great memories."