When Javahn Ferguson decided he was going to leave Catholic High School for his senior football season, he was looking for something he felt was missing with the Bears — a home.
Ferguson said, while he appreciated the program at Catholic, it never seemed to be a good fit. That’s when Ferguson heard from an old friend from AAU basketball who was going through the same thing.
Joseph McWilliams was looking for a fresh start and a place to grow into the man he always knew he could be after leaving Capitol High when the school decided to become a charter program. Much like Ferguson, he wanted a place to call home.
It wasn’t an ideal situation, but the two started talking about their options — at first, casually, but then realized they had some things in common.
Next thing they knew, they found what they were looking for.
“(Southern Lab) gave me a second chance to get my life together, to experience a different culture and a different environment by being on a college campus and seeing that lifestyle,” McWilliams said. “We’re here now, and we’re three, four months into the program — we don’t have time for looking back. You have to move on with the future.”
Ferguson, a self-described animated and competitive person, said it wasn’t all open arms when he and McWilliams showed up at the first day of practice. As the new guys in town, the pair had to prove they weren’t just swooping in at the last minute to ruin the chemistry seniors in the program spent four years building.
“As a player and as a team, you don’t always accept the new guy,” Ferguson said. “You don’t always want the new guy coming into practice yelling at everybody. It’s human nature to push those type of people away.”
But Ferguson said he leaned on McWilliams as someone who was going through the same thing he was, someone who understood what was going on.
The newest Kittens started spending time together on and off the field. McWilliams described it as a brother-type bond that made them inseparable and was the push they needed to get through the tough times.
It wasn’t long before the team started to see what Ferguson, a linebacker, and McWilliams, primarily a cornerback, had to offer.
“(Ferguson is) a Division I football player,” said Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell. “He knows how to tackle, how to check plays and call the defense. He can run through running backs, he can also get to the quarterback from the line of scrimmage and the linebacker position.
“Joe is the best kept secret in the class of 2015 in the state of Louisiana. He can play probably play seven or eight different positions on the football field.”
Both said they feel they’ve been fully accepted by their new teammates, and the environment they’ve found in north Baton Rouge is the home they were always looking for.
But that doesn’t mean they’re done proving their worth.
“I’m nowhere near satisfied,” Ferguson said. “I think they respect me, but I’m a competitive guy. … I’ll do anything to show that, maybe not that I’m the best, but that I’ll compete with the best.”
As for McWilliams, he said he wouldn’t be satisfied until he hoists a state championship trophy in New Orleans.