When the Ravens drafted him last month, Jaylon “Sack Daddy” Ferguson was in Ruston, La. helping victims of a tornado the previous day that claimed two lives and left most homes without power.
Ferguson had planned to host a draft party in Ruston with family and former Louisiana Tech teammates. But once the tornado hit, helping others became Ferguson’s main priority.
“I was one of the people who was blessed,” Ferguson said. “My home [wasn’t damaged] by the tornado, but I know a lot of people in the community, in the Bulldog community that were affected by it, so I did my best to help out everybody.”
Ferguson loves to rush quarterbacks. But in this case, he rushed quickly to help others.
“I thought it was an incredibly selfless decision and showed what kind of human being he is,” said Safarrah Lawson, Ferguson’s agent. “He’s the type of kid who puts others before him.”
However, putting quarterbacks on the ground is what the Ravens drafted Ferguson to do. With 45 career sacks at Louisiana Tech, Ferguson is the FBS all-time career sack leader, breaking the previous mark of 44 set by Terrell Suggs at Arizona State.
It’s fitting that Ferguson is a Raven, joining the team where Suggs was a pillar for 16 seasons and became the franchise’s all-time sack leader. As their first pick in the third round (85th overall), Ferguson is the main offseason acquisition the Ravens made to address the pass-rushing void left by Suggs and Za’Darius Smith, who both departed during free agency. Even if Ferguson pumps the breaks on comparisons to Suggs, their names are already linked due to the sack record.
“It’s flattering to be compared to the great Terrell Suggs, but at the same time, he left his legacy, he left his mark,” Ferguson said. “That’s some big shoes to fill, and I’m not really trying to step in his place, because he’s been in Baltimore for way longer than I’ve been in Baltimore. I’m just coming in and getting my start on the field, doing whatever I can to help the team win.”
When the Ravens called to inform Ferguson they were drafting him, he was still without cell phone service due to the tornado. After several attempts to contact Ferguson, the Ravens called Lawson to deliver the news. Lawson had flown to Louisiana to make sure he was in touch with Ferguson.
“That’s what I was worried about during the draft, the lack of communication during that time with the tornado,” Lawson said. “Jaylon was worried about everyone else, while I was worried about him.”
Since joining the Ravens, Ferguson has focused on learning from coaches and teammates as quickly as possible, hoping to make an immediate impact as a rookie. He has enjoyed being in the Baltimore area, including throwing out the first pitch before an Orioles game with Ravens first-round pick, wide receiver Marquise Brown.
However, Ferguson has arrived in Baltimore with a chip on his shoulder, determined to prove he should have never fallen to the third round.
“He’s quiet, doesn’t say much, but lets his actions do his work,” Louisiana Tech defensive line coach Rick Petri said. “There’s a lot more to him than just being a pass-rusher. We asked him to play down, we asked him to drop in coverage some. We asked him to do way more than just put his hand down and get up the field.
“I don’t know how he fell to the third round. He did well when he played against the SEC schools. He played well no matter who we played. When you play against better people, you get better. I think he’ll thrive on the competition, and I think Baltimore’s a great fit for him. He’s with a team where defense has always been very important.”
With the tornado and the draft behind him, Ferguson’s mind is clear to focus on football. Lawson expects Ferguson to become a fan favorite, especially once the sacks start to come.
“Baltimore’s going to love this kid, on and off the field,” Lawson said. “He’s a football player. He’s not a track star. He’s not a workout worrier. He’s a football player.”