Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 27, 2013

Bluefield’s Ferguson coming up strong for Lions

By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

ATHENS — His physique may be different this year, but Keith Ferguson’s enthusiasm for football is never changing.

Ferguson, listed on the Concord University football roster at 6-foot-1 and 274 pounds, is playing at a light weight for an NCAA defensive lineman. His impact on the field, however, is significant for the Mountain Lions.

“He plays with a lot of life in that position, a lot of spirit,” said Concord defensive coordinator Paul Price.

Ferguson’s energy level is “naturally just part of me,” he said before a recent practice in Athens. “I love this game more than anything, and being able to come out here and play at the collegiate level — I just come out and just enjoy ... and thank the Lord I’m still playing it.”

“It’s just something I’ve always done, since high school.”

He was a part of two Bluefield High School championship teams in 2007 and 2009, earning all-state recognition and becoming a finalist for the Huff Award that is given to West Virginia’s top scholastic lineman.

College football was “more competitive,” he said. “Sometimes around your high school, you’re the biggest person, the strongest person. But coming to the collegiate level, everyone’s stronger, everyone’s faster.”

“So it pushes you to get better and want to do more. There’s always someone who can take your spot.”

He made a splash in his first game as a Concord freshman, making five tackles — four of them solo — in the season opener in 2011 against Lenoir-Rhyne University.

“It felt great,” he said. “Coming out, playing a ranked team, as a freshman just having a chance to play, it felt good to be out there playing for my team and doing whatever I can do to help my team win.”

“I wasn’t worried about my stats. It was just going out there and playing as a freshman. Really, I was just hyper to be out there and playing for my team.”

He was credited with 15 tackles in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Last fall, he started four of Concord’s final five games. He chalked up sacks in back-to-back games, recovered a fumble and had 3 1/2 tackles for loss in his 2012 campaign.

Prior to Saturday’s game at Charleston, Ferguson was fourth on the team in total tackles with 35, including seven tackles for loss of yardage.

In Concord’s game at Bowie State in Maryland, he had six solo tackles and four assists. Two of the tackles were for losses, one of them a sack.

This season, he has also recovered a pair of fumbles, broken up two passes and defensed two others.

Asked about the reason for the increase in his statistics, he said, “I don’t know. I’ve just dedicated myself more. I’ve watched more film (so I can) break down plays. I’m really just trying to become an overall better player.”

“I’m getting a lot more reps than I have my first two years.”

Those numbers are somewhat suppressed because of Concord’s constant shifting of defensive linemen into and out of the game.

Price said, “He’s been playing well. We’ve been playing a lot of bodies, to keep ’em fresh.”

Ferguson said, “That’s good because every time we get a rotation, it’s fresh feet.

“If we’ve got three people going in, it kind of throws the offensive linemen off, too. If we have three in one series, and then we bring in another three, they don’t really know what to expect, because we might have power linemen in, or speed linemen.”

With linemen alternating at such a strenuous position, he said, “Everybody can go explosively, 100 percent every play. It’s good for all of us.”

The tackles for loss have come from “just reading my blocks, reading and disengaging,” Ferguson said. “We practice so hard on attacking our blocks and getting off (of them). Really, I just dedicated myself to doing that.”

“Coach preaches at us, ‘Get your blocks and then defeat your blocks.’ I feel that’s all I’ve done, just taken in what coach preaches to us.”

Concord has faced a spectrum of different offenses this year, from Lenoir-Rhyne’s wishbone power attack to Urbana’s pass-happy system.

“It’s a challenge, every week, really,” Ferguson said. “And honestly, I love the challenge, facing something different and something new. It motivates me to become better.”

He is trying something else new — a slimmed-down version of himself.

“I’ve trimmed up a little bit,” he said. “I worked hard this summer, and got a little more dedicated. I just wanted to come back and be in the best shape that I could be, for the team.”

Reminded that most college D-linemen are now north of 300 pounds, he laughed. “Yeah, I feel like I’m the smallest one around,” he said. “I feel like I’m the smallest one in the conference, and maybe D-2.”

He doesn’t view it as a disadvantage. “I kind of just make up for that, as hard as I play,” he said.

He is enjoying playing on the same defense as his former teammate at Bluefield High, linebacker Jake Lilly.

“It’s real good,” Ferguson said. “

We just have that chemistry, that bond. If one player is having a little struggle (in a) game, the other one is there to pick him up.

“We kind of feed off of each other. Like, if he’s real hyped up, he knows to come over to me. And if I’m not real hyped-up, he’ll chest-bump me (or) head-butt me. We’re just like a duo. Whatever he’s doing, I’m there to complement (him) or to do better.”

“It goes on in the weight room, and the field. We’re always pushing each other, and being there for each other, and getting it done.”

He said he still gets “support” from Bluefield High head coach Fred Simon and his staff.

“I still talk to Coach here and there, and on my free time I’ll go down there and speak to them (the BHS players),” he said. “They even help me on things that I can get better in.”

“This summer, I went down there and worked out with Coach, and was around the team. It kind of brought me back to my high school days, and made me not forget why I’m here now.”

“It’s just a blessing.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com