Deonte’ Ferguson has been through a great deal in his life, but the common denominator has been his will to overcome.
The Concordia Prep defensive back is a two-time Crab Bowl selection, a Baltimore Touchdown Club Super 22 honoree and a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association All-Conference pick in his junior season. In early March, he was also named to the Maryland roster for the Big 33 Football Classic to be played against Pennsylvania on May 25.
He accomplished all this after transferring from Mount Hebron, where he was a track athlete and didn’t play football.
Ferguson trained with Antonio Johnson, a former college and professional defensive back who runs the DB Elite Skills & Performance academy in Baltimore.
“When I first came here, I never thought that I would be playing corner,” Ferguson said. “I had to build myself into a corner — I had to work out. I normally worked out two times a day. Sometimes I worked out once and took a break on Sundays, but I had to transfer myself to a corner.”
Through all of his accomplishments, the cornerback has trekked a long way.
Ferguson’s mother died when he was 8 years old. Last summer, he severely injured his liver before his senior season during a collision in seven-on-seven drills. Ferguson went up for the ball and a freshman player ran into him with his knee, rupturing Ferguson’s liver. The injury put his football career and his entire senior season in jeopardy.
Despite staring uncertainty in the face, Ferguson understood that he had a chance to salvage his career and even make it back during his senior season.
“I wasn’t going to play it all during the whole season — I wasn’t going to be able to play in the Crab Bowl or play on the field until my college years,” Ferguson said. “Coming back, I had already lost weight. I went from 175 [pounds] to 150 — I had to learn how to walk, talk again, say my name, get used to eating food again, I had to gain the weight and start running. I have a big cut on my stomach and I had to get used to that while running.”
He was told that it would take six months to recover in July 2019. Every day that he was allowed to rehabilitate, he jogged, ran and did noncontact drills to work his way into game shape. He finally returned to the field for Concordia’s game against St. Vincent Pallotti on Nov. 1.
After he was cleared to play, he called his coach, Josh Ward, and told him that he would be returning to the field, bringing a tear to his coach’s eye. He then announced the news in front of his teammates.
“Throughout the whole process, it was rough. I had to go to the doctors four times, and three times out of the four, I got denied. The last time that I went, he said I could play — he finally cleared me to play. It was hard and rough on me because not only was I not playing, but I was losing the chance of getting the scholarships that I wanted and that I dreamed for. I’ve just seen colleges going out the window because I didn’t have the film to showcase it to them.”
Football is a family affair for Ferguson, as his older brother Davon played in 12 games as a safety for Kansas last season. Davon played his high school football at St. Frances, where Ward was an assistant. According to Ward, the talent and character that Deonte’ has runs in the family.
“His brother [Davon] was more of a goofball, but he was a great athletic talent — he was a football player,” Ward said. “I remember his brother went up against Stefon Diggs’ brother [Trevon] at Avalon when Diggs was a senior and Davon was a sophomore. It’s just something about this family — his dad and stepmom, they just instilled great character traits in their kids.
“No matter how down they get, they bounce back. Davon didn’t have the [Division I] interest that Deonte’ had, and Davon decided ‘You know what? I’m going to go out to Hartnell and bet on myself.' Three months later, he got offers from Buffalo and Kansas and ended up at Kansas. So, I truly believe that you can’t get better kids.”
Losing Deonte’ to graduation will be tough for Ward. The same season that the fourth-year coach came on the scene to Concordia Prep was the first season that Ferguson attended the school.
“He’s an amazing kid. I’m going to shed a tear when he walks across that stage for graduation,” Ward said. “He means a lot to me — he was in my first group of guys that came in. I shed a tear when he called me and said, ‘Coach, I can play.' I told him to go to practice and you’re telling the team. The amount of energy that came from that, it was a special moment. I will always remember that as a young head coach."
Deonte’s relationship with his brother Davon is one that has been forged through tough love and support. The two trained together during the offseason with Johnson and constantly challenged each other. At times, the elder Ferguson would push his younger brother to keep going, even when things would get tough.
“My brother [Davon] is a person who keeps it real with you,” Ferguson said. “If you either need to get on your feet or you aren’t doing too well, he’s going to tell you ‘All right, it’s time to wake up,’ or ‘Do what you came here to do.' My brother is a person who always encourages me and keeps me going. He’s always there to tell me, ‘I know what you can do, I believe in you. As long as you believe in yourself, you can get it done.'"
Deonte’ has drawn interest from Delaware State, East Stroudsburg and Notre Dame College of Maryland. Before his injury, he drew interest from Division I colleges, but the lack of film has hurt his chances. Among the schools were Albany, James Madison, Towson, Maine, Connecticut and Rutgers. He might make the most of his opportunity by going to a junior college or a prep school to give higher profile schools more film.
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“I’m considering that now,” Ferguson said. "I might go to a prep school — I’m thinking about going to prep school so that I can get the film and be able to get the film and build my dream. My brother told me ‘If I was you, I’d bet on myself.' My brother didn’t have film and had to go the junior college route and that’s how he got his offer.
“That’s the same thing that he said to me — like with him and his situation, he had to go another route and get another year of film. For me, I have to get another year of film. He said, ‘Instead of settling, you should bet on yourself,’ and I feel as though I can bet on myself because if I had played the full season this year, I would have had the offers that I worked hard for.”
His interests go beyond football, though. He is the vice president of his school’s student government association and has an interest in cybersecurity. Ferguson plans to use a background in cybersecurity and to train future kids if he doesn’t make it to the pros.
“In the eighth grade, I was working on computers at the school that I went to,” Ferguson said. “I went to Friendship Academy of Engineering and Technology and we did computer stuff sometimes. Once my father got into an IT and security background, he would just talk to me about it. I helped him with computers and overall, I liked the way that things were.
“You need to know if something is wrong with your computer — if someone is trying to hack it or a virus. I feel like computers would be my Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work.”