Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer
Going into the 2019 college football season, the University of Maine program was all set at the quarterback position with redshirt junior signal caller Chris Ferguson returning under center. To say the Black Bears were coming off of a rock solid 2018 campaign would be a vast understatement.
Finishing that season with a 10-4 record, they would advance to the FCS Semifinal game against the #4 ranked Eastern Washington Eagles. That day would not end the Maine football season on a high note, losing to the Eagles 50-19.
However, with a plethora of talent coming back, the Black Bears had high hopes for what 2019 could bring.
Those expectations were tempered, at least for Ferguson, during a 24-17 defeat at home to the Richmond Spiders on October 12th. Ferguson would leave that game with a foot injury, later diagnosed as a lisfranc fracture.
A severe injury that would cost Chris Ferguson the remainder of the season, but not before finishing that same scoring drive off before exiting against the Spiders. It is an injury that has been highlighted pretty frequently recently, costing Cam Newton the entirety of his 2019 season before it began.
In the midst of rehabilitation, Ferguson would be poised with a difficult decision regarding his final year of eligibility. The rise of the transfer portal over the last couple seasons, student athletes have been provided an opportunity to end their careers on their own terms.
To a large degree it comes down to betting on themselves ultimately.
As Ferguson puts it, “The transfer portal is a tough place to be unless you are an offensive lineman. It isn’t a great place for injured quarterbacks with one year of eligibility remaining.”
Encapsulating Ferguson’s career to a degree, the ups and downs are met with belief within himself and to a higher purpose. He is a young man who has often stood as a spiritual leader for his teammates and others around him.
It is this unique journey, and character, that has led him here… to an opportunity to end his career with a chance to leave his mark on multiple programs and demographics.
Out of the Shadows
Adversity is said to reveal true character. That is something that has encapsulated Chris going back to his time at La Salle College High School in Pennsylvania.
Sitting behind former Vanderbilt star quarterback Kyle Shurmur for three seasons, Ferguson was not presented with expanded until his senior year of high school. A challenge that was not looked at with a large scope of negativity.
For Chris Ferguson, a young man of extreme faith, everything was happening for a reason.
It was a senior year to remember, leading his team to Philadelphia Catholic 4A title, as well as a District 12 City of Philadelphia 4A title. Securing a spot on the First Team 4A All-Catholic team, Ferguson was able to trump the recruiting odds for a one year starter.
He would receive two Division 1 scholarship offers from Bryant University of the University of Maine, eventually choosing the ladder. A decision that would jump start another exciting chapter for Chris, but first stop, a redshirt season.
A season he would credit with being huge in his development, both physically and mentally.
The Main Event
Following that redshirt season as a true freshman, Ferguson would take full advantage of every opportunity in his first season as a starter.
As a young team, the Black Bears would finish that year with just a 4-6 record, but would lay the groundwork for future success. Ferguson would finish that first season with 2,064 yards and 16 touchdowns.
It was an early indicator of the talent Ferguson possessed, setting the stage for a noteworthy 2018 season and beyond.
This wasn’t the first time Ferguson has dealt with injuries in the past. Dating back to 2018, Ferguson missed two games recovering from a dislocated shoulder.
Unfortunate events, it is these experiences that have continued to shape Ferguson into the resilient leader that will soon get his first action as a full participant on the FBS level.
With this opportunity, a tough decision had to ultimately be made… one that would be huge for Ferguson and his future prospects. A decision that began in a place that he had often frequented during his time apart of the program.
“Walking into that same office. It’s a surreal moment.”
With tough decisions, difficult conversations have to be had. Ferguson, a spiritual leader who has maintained his nature through adverse situations, did just that.
“I just had to make the decision that was best for me and my family.”
He did just that. Through this difficult decision, the portal has allowed Ferguson to continue to reach for his highest potential.
Forever grateful for my time at Maine. I wanna thank my teammates and coaches for all they have done for me. They know I’ve given everything to them and our program. I’m trusting God through it all and His path https://t.co/IJmMqgrdWP— Chris Ferguson (@Cferg_17) November 26, 2019
The decision to graduate transfer offered him Ferguson a unique opportunity for a player who had given to the University of Maine exactly what he had promised. That was in the form of leadership, a high level of play and a model student athlete set to graduate in December.
So the big question left unanswered is where the next destination for Ferguson would ultimately end up. With the nature of the transfer portal and talent level of Chris, opportunity was not the issue. Teams would reach out to the talented 6’4” signal caller with an even higher ceiling of development, and a winning pedigree.
Finding the best fit was the mission for Ferguson. One that again, was made with an outstanding level of trust and faith.
With family ties at Liberty University, it was again his faith that brought him to make the best decision for himself, and everyone around him. Joining his sister Lizzy (Liberty lacrosse player) and Danielle Gillen (Director of Sports Nutrition), the Ferguson household will be well represented on the campus at the beginning of the new semester.
The Liberty football program quickly made Chris Ferguson a high priority after he had decided to enter the transfer portal in November. Something that stayed with Ferguson throughout what can be a strenuous process and decision for most young men in the same position.
“Liberty came to the forefront early. I was able to create a great relationship with their offensive coordinator. It was a great fit.”
Chris is ready to trade in some lobster and seafood in for the barbecue scene further down south.
Excited with the opportunity, he is fully aware of the challenges ahead for a first year signal caller in a brand new situation-system.
“From Day One, It is not going to be easy. I am going to be myself and let things happen. The first thing everyone at Liberty is going to know, is that I am ready and here to work.”
What Liberty can Expect
We are just days away from Chris beginning his classes in Lynchburg, Virginia, creating a new chapter for the talented signal caller. And not just as a football player either. Ferguson is embarking on a brand new academic challenges.
After finishing up his bachelor’s degree in Business Management this December, the timing made too much sense for some fresh scenery. On top of hoping to make an early impression on the Flames football program, he will embark on a quest to receive a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in Executive Leadership.
You can measure arm strength. You can measure foot speed. You can’t however, measure the ability to master an offensive system.
Not only to have that understanding of what is expected, but to understand why defenses are attacking things in a certain way. It is the ability to recognize pre snap what the defense is attempting to do.
Then the transition to a post snap read is where the magic happens.
When the game slows down, you have an understanding and you are left there to read and react, that is where “special” begins.
“Before the play is about figuring out what defenses are doing,” Ferguson highlights. “After the snap, it is about proving defenders wrong and reacting.”
In former Maine quarterback @Cferg_17, Liberty is getting a cerebral signal caller who has the ability to drive the football, while changing arm speeds. In an article coming soon on Chris, we spoke about post and pre snap reads and the ability to persevere through tough times. pic.twitter.com/eZuiIP4oNz— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) January 9, 2020
For a player like Chris Ferguson, who possesses baseline athletic qualities to put defenses in vicarious situations, that attention to detail makes a world of difference.
Understanding coverage concepts and leverages in pre snap reads, Ferguson has shown the ability to designate man-to-man coverage on the outside.
He has impressive reps making outstanding bucket throws outside the numbers when designating these one-on-one opportunities. Ferguson demonstrates phenomenal touch, showcasing a great ability to change large speeds without any problem.
Chris shows a nice amount of eye manipulation. Pre snap, he locates man coverage on the outside. Shows the tough to make the defense pay. pic.twitter.com/xBFP1G364f— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) January 9, 2020
Let’s make no mistake about it. From a football intelligence perspective, Ferguson has it. Far too often however, people mistake that type of compliment for lacking in physical traits.
Which is something that Chris does not lack.
This my friends is arm talent… showing the ability to split an underneath and deeper defender, Chris has perfect ball placement. The wide receiver wasn’t able to hold on, but you can’t throw it better than this. pic.twitter.com/EZb0kjjCQU— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) January 9, 2020
He has a special arm that has the ability to drive into tight windows. With example of special level throws in between over the top and underneath defenders, he is able to make some throws most quarterbacks wouldn’t dream of attempting.
These are the types of baseline talents that should allow him to acclimate quickly to a new system. It is the other parts of his game that he will be constantly improving up until spring practice is ready to begin.
For Ferguson, practicing to make himself uncomfortable is among the biggest factors to become comfortable. Being able to throw from different arm angles-slots is often viewed a natural ability and feel. You often never picture practice reps to improve in that area. There, of course, is a natural feel to locate and avoid pressure.
With the added implementation of RPO concepts, the variation of arm slots and release points continue to become more varied and prevalent.
It is clear that Ferguson displays the general understanding to assimilate to a new situation. As he was clearly excited about the opportunity, he continued to reiterate just how grateful he was for the opportunities the University of Maine was able to provide to them.
“I love the guys there. I made memories and friends I will cherish forever. It’s where I learned to be a leader.”
For Liberty fans and Sun Belt conference followed alike, keep a close eye on Chris Ferguson this fall. Already making his mark on the FCS level, he intends to do the same on his next stop. With continued opportunity and belief, the best is still yet to come.
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