Athletes with a knack for performing their best in game situations are labeled “gamers.”
That label could fit 6-foot-5, 215-pound LSU football commitment Jazz Ferguson. Ask the West Feliciana High senior-to-be to describe himself in one word in the answer is — player.
“There isn’t a day when I just go to school and come home,” Ferguson said. “I’ve got to be outside or doing something. I play a lot of games. I’ll play kickball, anything just to be playing something.”
Ferguson is set to be a four-year starter in three sports for the Class 3A Saints. Competing in four sports — football, basketball, track and baseball — helped Ferguson win The Advocate’s 2014 Boys Athlete of the Year award.
Making time for four sports in one school year sounds complicated, but Ferguson insists it isn’t. He just makes it look easy.
“I saw him play in middle school, and he stood out,” WFHS football coach Robb Odom said. “The summer coaches tell me baseball was his best sport when he was growing up.
“As a freshman he was a starter. That doesn’t happen often, and it’s tough on a kid. Some aren’t physically ready, and if they are, they’re not mentally ready. He looked the part, and he ended up starting varsity football, varsity basketball and made it to the state track meet in the long jump and relays that year.”
Even though the Saints are an option-oriented team, Ferguson proved to be too good of a football prospect to be overlooked. The four-star recruit caught 34 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns. Ferguson also ran for 190 yards on 13 attempts, scoring three more touchdowns.
After participating in February’s Boys from the Boot event at LSU, Ferguson took the low key approach to committing. He asked Odom if he could get out of class long enough to call LSU coach Les Miles.
“He just wants to be a teammate and part of the team,” Odom said. “Jazz doesn’t want any special treatment. He doesn’t like the publicity or to be in the spotlight. Some kids will have a commitment party and make a big deal out of it. He doesn’t, and I think that’s a good quality I think.”
Of course, when Ferguson committed he was in the middle of basketball season. He averaged 14.5 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots per game and was a first-team all-district choice in a competitive league that also included eventual state champion University High.
In track, Ferguson was a district champion in the long jump and placed fourth at the Class 3A state meet. His best was 22 feet, 10 inches. He ran the 200 meters in 22.61 seconds. Ferguson returned to baseball for the first time in two years and hit .350 with 12 RBIs in 58 at-bats. He also was 3-1 as a pitcher for a WFHS team that advanced to the quarterfinals.
“I guess the thing that would surprise people the most is how much basketball I play,” Ferguson said. “I’ll play whenever there’s a pickup game. The day we lost in the baseball playoffs I went straight to the gym and played basketball for a couple of hours. It helped me clear my head.”
There will be one major change for Ferguson in 2013-14. His older brother Jay, The Advocate’s All-Metro Defensive MVP for Class 3A and below in 2013 as a linebacker-end, signed with Louisiana Tech and won’t be a teammate. The duo is looking forward to a future meeting between their two schools.
“He just got back from summer school,” Ferguson said. “Run: That’s the advice he gave me. He said college coaches make you run and to get ready for that.”
Ferguson and West Feliciana quarterback Ryan Reed have more than running on their mind. They’ve asked Odom about factoring in a few more passing plays. The duo has uncanny chemistry because they’ve played together since youth football when Ferguson was the quarterback and Reed was the receiver.
“He (Odom) tells us the run sets up the pass,” Ferguson said with a smile. “I expected that.”
Meanwhile, expectations for 2013-14 and beyond abound.
“Once he applies himself in the weight room and is doing only one sport there’s no telling how good he can be,” West Feliciana assistant football coach James Cupit said.
Leave it to Ferguson to put a player’s spin on what could be. He said he plans to play four sports again this year and might add a fifth — soccer. Soccer?
“Our kicker plays soccer and his dad is the coach,” Ferguson said. “They want me to come out and play goalkeeper. I might try it.”