Canadian Football League

Friday, April 22, 2005

From Canadian Football League To Madden Football To Degree

Nick Ferguson explains how his classmate finally recognized him.
"A guy in my class told me that he was playing Madden Football and he saw me," said Ferguson. "He did a Google search and figured out the Nick Ferguson in the video game was the same Nick Ferguson in his class. One of my professors did the same thing. He googled me right there in class."
Nick Ferguson can indeed be found in the popular video game. And if you're surfing the web, you'll find him at, where he is enrolled this semester, and at, thanks to his "day job" as a safety in the National Football League.
But keep searching, and you'll find Ferguson's smiling face on websites from the Cincinnati Bengals to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to the Rhein Fire, courtesy of a gridiron odyssey that would make Marco Polo seem like a homebody.
Which brings us back to Georgia Tech.
Ten years after he played his last football game for the Yellow Jackets, Ferguson has returned to the Flats to complete his degree. With a full load this semester, he will earn his degree in Management in May.
"Wow, I didn't think it was that long," joked Ferguson, a starting cornerback for the Jackets as a senior in 1995. "It seems like it was just yesterday.
"It's been somewhat of a difficult transition, coming back to school after so long, but that's one of the reasons why I wanted to do it. At times it's been really tough, and I've had a couple of people tell me, Just look at all the other obstacles you've overcome in your football career, you can do this."
But there's more to the story than term papers and late-night study sessions.
In today's NFL, professional football is a year-round job, and players receive a monetary bonus to spend their "off-season" attending so-called voluntary workouts. With no guaranteed contracts, players have to maintain every edge, lest they be replaced by someone younger or cheaper. That explains why it has taken Ferguson 10 years to become secure enough in his career to be able to return to Atlanta and Georgia Tech to attend classes.

"The Broncos and Coach (Mike) Shanahan have been very supportive in helping me do this," said Ferguson.
Support has its price. Ferguson had to forfeit his workout bonus, a sum of $50,000.
"Guys have been asking me, What are you doing? Take the money," said Ferguson. "But I told myself that this is an opportunity that I have to take advantage of now."
Ferguson's NFL career is a rags-to-riches story if ever there was one.
Not a highly-recruited prep player, the Miami, Fla., native enrolled at Morris Brown in Atlanta and played one season there.
"I saw that as a way in," said Ferguson, one of 11 children. "After being in Atlanta and learning about Georgia Tech, I said to myself, I think I'm a good enough student and a good enough athlete to give it a shot. So there have been a lot of challenges in my career, starting with that transition from Morris Brown to Georgia Tech."
He joined the Tech program as a walk-on in 1993 and served as a scout team player. After finally proving himself, he started one year in 1995, the first full season for head coach George O'Leary. The Jackets posted a 6-5 record that season, coming up just short of a bowl game, but laying the foundation for Tech's current run of eight straight bowl games.
"I really wish that I could have experienced what the guys after me did, going to bowl games, but we take pride that we started things and laid that groundwork," said Ferguson.
"Coach O'Leary and I have the same agent, and we talk occasionally," continued Ferguson. "When I do talk to him, we discuss football, but that conversation is never over without him asking about my degree. So it means a lot to me that long after I finished playing football for him, he is still concerned about me as a person and about my education."
In the spring of 1996, Ferguson signed with the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent but got injured in training camp.
So he headed north for his first tour of duty in the Canadian Football League, playing with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders and then the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He played three seasons with Winnipeg, sandwiched around two seasons with the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe and a trip to the Chicago Bears training camp in 1999, when he made it all the way to the last cut.
"That's where it gets interesting," said Ferguson.
After he was cut by the Bears, he went back to Canada to finish the season. When negotiations with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins bogged down, he went to NFL Europe for another spring. Finally, in 2000, Ferguson landed on the Bill's practice squad. Midway through that season, he received a phone call.
"I got a call on a Tuesday, and it was Bill Parcells," said Ferguson of the then-New York Jets' head coach. "Next thing I know, I'm on a plane to New York, and then I'm sitting in a room with my agent and Bill Parcells, and we've got Wade Phillips (Buffalo head coach) on the phone."
Parcells wanted to sign Ferguson for the rest of the season, but Phillips countered by offering to elevate him from the practice squad.
Not known to take no for an answer, Parcells and his powers of persuasion eventually won out.
"At that point, I knew I was making a decision that could shape the rest of my career," recalled Ferguson. "But Coach Parcells said some things that really made sense. It wasn't that he was intimidating, but he spoke the truth about my career."
Ferguson ended up playing in seven games that year for the Jets, as well as every game the following two years. In 2003, he signed as a free agent with the Broncos and enjoyed his most productive season, starting 10 games and ranking fourth on the team with 72 tackles before breaking his arm prior to the final regular season game. Last fall, he played in every game, starting one.
"Denver is a great place," said Ferguson.
Ferguson is one of three former Yellow Jackets in Denver, representing a decade of Tech football, in defensive end Marco Coleman, who finished at Tech in 1991 and just signed on for his 14th NFL season, and fellow safety Chris Young, who played for the Jackets from 1998-2001.
When he's in Atlanta, Ferguson works out in the Tech weight room, and as he encounters current Yellow Jackets, he tries to offer them a glimpse of the realities of life after college.
"The NFL is a business," said Ferguson. "You see it on TV, but you don't realize how much of a business it is until you're there. It's all, What have you done for me lately?
"It's great to be able to come back and talk to the guys and tell them what to expect. It's a privilege to be able to play in the NFL, and it's important that you are a good person in the locker room and in the community as well as a good player, but it's definitely a business.
"That's why it's so important to get your degree."

Former Canadian Football League Quarter-back signs in AFL2

The Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings' quarterback position, stable for most of the past four seasons under Sherard Poteete, has suddenly become an evolving enterprise.On Tuesday, 2005 starter Caleb Slover and backup Brent Rawls departed the scene after former Wilkes Barre/Scranton Pioneer Tim Hicks was brought in as the starter.Then on Wednesday, the Battle Wings added former Louisiana Tech and Central Arkansas standout Brian Stallworth as a backup to Hicks.Stallworth, who spent the last three seasons with two different teams in the Canadian Football League, was at practice on Wednesday in the CenturyTel Center sharing reps with Hicks."We originally brought Brian in during a preseason workout to get him familiar with our system," Battle Wings coach Keith Barefield said. "When we went through this recent transition, he came in ready to go. The contract details will be worked out in the next few days."Slover was placed on short term injured reserve, but the status of Rawls was still uncertain on Wednesday. Neither Slover nor Rawls were at practice for a second consecutive day.While Stallworth will be the second quarterback on the 21-man roster, when it is submitted to the af2 office at 4 p.m. today, Hicks will be the starter on Saturday night against Amarillo. He brings hefty credentials from last season when he threw for more than 3,000 yards and over 80 touchdowns."I just wanted to play football and I appreciate this opportunity," said Hicks, who couldn't win back his af2 job after a stint in the Arena Football League. "I was hoping to get a chance to play somewhere, so when my coach called me and told me that I was heading to Bossier City, I was excited."At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Hicks looks a little like Olympic wrestling champion Rulon Gardner and he has a down-home, country boy attitude, according to Battle Wings Player Personnel Director Clay Moose."Not only is he talented, he's just a good guy," Moose said.Hicks is hoping to lead the Battle Wings out of the doldrums of an 0-3 start and he believes the talent is already on the field."There are a lot of good athletes on this team and there seems to be a lot of speed," Hicks said. "Hopefully, we can turn this thing around."Hicks was traded from Wilkes Barre for future considerations.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Riders re-sign veteran Canadian Football League receiver

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have re-signed receiver Travis Moore to a contract that is one year plus an option year.
Moore is entering his 11th season in the CFL and his third with the Roughriders. The 34-year-old from Santa Monica, Calif., led Saskatchewan in receptions last year with 72, for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns. In 146 career CFL games, Moore has 615 receptions for 9,503 yards and 75 touchdowns.
"Travis brings a great compliment of talent and veteran leadership to our receiving corps," Riders head coach Danny Barrett said Tuesday in a statement. "I am very excited to bring him back into our lineup and be able to start this season with the same group of receivers as we finished with last year."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Former Canadian Football League great going into Quad-City Hall of Fame

Each of them enjoyed at least one bright, shining moment in the national spotlight.
.One was the MVP of the Rose Bowl. One was the winning pitcher in the major league baseball All-Star Game. One officiated a Super Bowl.
.A week from Wednesday, all of them will go into the Quad-City Sports Hall of Fame together.
.Kenny Ploen, Dean Stone and Hugh “Sonny” Gamber will comprose the 19th batch of inductees into the Hall of Fame when they are honored at the annual Salute to Sports in the Quad-Cities. The event, which also honors the top high school athletes from the two-state region, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 27 at the Davenport RiverCenter.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back and maybe seeing some old friends,” said Ploen, who now lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “This is a great opportunity.”
.Ploen, born and raised in Clinton, Iowa, has called Canada home since shortly after his playing career at the University of Iowa. He starred at quarterback for 11 years in the Canadian Football League, leading the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to four Grey Cup titles.
.As a high school athlete in Clinton, he was all-state in both football and basketball and won a state hurdles championship.
.At Iowa, he didn’t emerge as a starter until his senior season, but he became a Hawkeye folk hero when he did. He led the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten title in 1956, then was almost flawless in a 35-19 Rose Bowl victory over California. He ran 49 yards for the game’s first touchdown and completed 9 of 10 pass attempts.
.Stone was born in Moline, grew up in Silvis and was the star pitcher on the first baseball team ever fielded by what is now known as United Township High School. As a sophomore, he struck out 21 batters in a seven-inning game and two years later signed a major league contract.
.He pitched two no-hitters in the minor leagues for Charlotte in 1952, debuted in the majors with the Washington Senators in 1953 and had his best season in 1954, going 12-10. It was during that season that he was the winning pitcher in the All-Star game despite not retiring a batter. Red Schoendienst of the Cardinals was thrown out trying to steal home on the only pitch thrown by Stone.
.He later pitched for the Red Sox, Cardinals, Colt 45s (now Astros), White Sox and Orioles before retiring in 1964.
.Gamber, a Davenport native, retired to Florida many years ago after a career in which he officiated football, basketball and baseball at every level.
.He served as an official in the American Football League and National Football League from 1959 through 1975, doing 10 conference championship games and Super Bowl V. He also was part of the crew that worked the famous “Heidi” game in the early days of the AFL.
.Gamber also was a long-time basketball official in the high school and college ranks and spent seven years in the NBA. He also umpired Big Ten baseball game for 20 years.
.The plaques for the new Hall of Fame members will be placed with those of the 60 previous inductees at Third and 22, located at 2130 Third Avenue, Rock Island.