New Jets Tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
We have all made the same mistake.
By “we” I mean the media, and our flub has been focusing on everything about Freeport native and newest Jet D’Brickashaw Ferguson other than his skills as a football player.
Oh, he was named after a character in The Thorn Birds.
Oh, he’s a saxophone player.
Oh, he’s a black belt in karate.
Oh, he’s a hometown kid.
Oh, now he’s going to be one of the few connections to the Island once Gang Green moves out of its training camp/practice home in Hempstead.
And, oh, by the way, he’s the latest to suffer the wrath of rabid Jets fans when Matt Leinart’s name wasn’t called Saturday. (He got a bunch of cheers, too, but the small band in one corner of the balcony of Radio City Music Hall was the most creative/biting with their chant of “Gold-Brick!”)
Hell, I made the same error of not seeing the forest for the trees. Thursday in the Press, I soap-boxed about Ferguson possibly saving lives by succeeding as a smaller offensive tackle, thereby slowing the trend of overweight linemen that has led to heart attacks, diabetes and death.
Why didn’t I just ask him to come up with an AIDS vaccine while he was at it?
The point of undervaluing him as a football player was made by former Jets coach Al Groh, Ferguson’s coach at Virginia, when I talked to him on Tuesday. He said that while it’s okay to admire everything Ferguson does off the football field, in a sense it takes away from him because it makes it seem as if football isn’t one of Ferguson’s passions.
We’ve seen this before. All reporters ever wanted to ask Warrick Dunn about was his tireless work to provide houses for single mothers. And that’s great. But it got to the point where nobody asked him about being one of the top runners in the NFL, and last season Dunn—albeit quietly—admitted that sometimes he just wanted to be asked a little more about football.
In Ferguson’s case, the light bulb finally started glowing over my head Friday when a reader called to ask about our back cover. He wanted to point out something about the lineman’s hand technique in the action photo we used of him.
I looked at that photo 30 times, but never studied it in the same way. Now that the blessed NFL Draft is over, Ferguson can stop being feature fodder and finally be a football player again.
And he can’t wait.
“[Being appreciated for other things] is real nice, but I play football. That’s what I do,” Ferguson said when I asked about being able to focus on the gridiron. “This is why I’m here. You know, I’m not here because I play the sax. I’m not here because I took religious studies in college [yet another “angle”]. I’m here because of God and my ability to play. And that’s what I plan to do for the next several years.”
Before being shuttled out of NYC en route to Hempstead Saturday, he offered the normal athlete-speak.
“If the Jets can win championships, that would be great,” Ferguson said. “If I can help them do that, I’ll be happy.”
It’s no longer about being a black belt and giving a sound bite. It’s about being a blocker and getting to a Super Bowl.
He seems relieved to just be a left tackle again, and finally, I understand why.
Josh Stewart is Sports Editor of the Long Island Press.