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BOILING SPRING LAKES—Wearing a red shirt and red tie, South Brunswick High School senior A.J. Ferguson was all smiles as he put on the red Wolfpack hat and signed a four-year scholarship Feb. 4 to attend N.C. State University.
At least 100 people attended the signing Wednesday afternoon in school media center: fellow football players, friends, members of the school board, the sheriff, the school board superintendent and, of course, Ferguson’s mom, Pam, who cried she was so excited.
“This summer, State started sending me letters,” Ferguson said. “They showed a real interest in me, and I attended a few of their games this season.
“I asked my mom what she thought, and she said, ‘You must decide where you want to spend the next four years.’ I really liked the campus. The coaching staff treats you like you are at home and part of the family. They watched me play last year, and during the summer there were more letters and later on more phone calls. They plan to try me out at defensive end.”
A four-year starter for the Cougars, Ferguson (listed on the South roster as 6-foot-2, 230 pounds) made 90 tackles—20 for losses—and had 10 sacks during his senior season. He scored three touchdowns on defense.
He also played tight end his senior year, and he scored four touchdowns and had 10 receptions for the run-oriented Cougars.
Ferguson, a co-captain, helped his team advance to the third round of the state playoffs. He twice was named to all-conference teams and led the Cougars in sacks for three seasons. He was named to the All-Atlantic Region Class of 2009 by PrepStar.com. Besides football, he also runs track (the 100- and 200-meter events).
Ferguson thanked all the coaches who, under head coach Gordon Walters, helped him throughout high school: Tony Thomas, Fred Freeman, David Kelly, Josh Rusk, Andrew Rusk, Jack Southern, Wes Kidd, Roman Kelley and Stacey Belter.
A highlight video of Ferguson’s senior year was shown, and the crowd of more than 100 people yelled as if it were at a playoff game.
“Coach Walters is a very inspiring man,” Ferguson said. “I look at him like a father figure. Our relationship has grown a lot. He cares about his players. The whole team, including coaches, is one big family. He gives us the motivation to go out there and do our best each and every time.”
Among those in attendance was teammate Greg Gilbert, a co-captain and also an all-conference player.
“This is a great achievement for A.J,” Gilbert said. “Hopefully, there will be others who can make it. We are so proud of him today.
“I’m just so excited,” said Pam Ferguson. “I’m glad he has a scholarship, but I want him to keep up the good grades.”
A banner in front of the table at which Ferguson sat read “South Brunswick High School: honesty—character—integrity.” Those words were similar to what Walters said about Ferguson.
“A.J. is an outstanding young man who has done an outstanding job in the classroom,” Walters said. “He really matured over his four years. The thing I like most about A.J. is that he is a fantastic person. I am going to miss him on the football field, but I will miss him more in my life every day.
“He is going to be a good football player at State. But more important, he will get his degree and contribute to society beyond football. Football will take care of itself.”