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Jake Ferguson, son of Fort Myers Beach mom, drafted by the Dallas Cowboys

By NATHAN MAYBERG - | May 4, 2022

Fort Myers Beach Public Safety Committee Chair Dawn Alvarez Thomas, left, with her son, Jake Ferguson, after Wisconsin won the Las Vegas Bowl over Arizona State Dec. 30. Ferguson, a tight end, was drafted out of the University of Wisconsin by the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. PHOTO PROVIDED

The next time you are walking on Fort Myers Beach and a 6-foot-5 runner passes by you looking like he is an NFL tight end, he actually might be.

Jake Ferguson, son of Fort Myers Beach Public Safety Committee Chair Dawn Thomas, was selected Saturday by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.

“Our family is very excited. It’s always been his dream,” Thomas said.

Thomas moved to Fort Myers Beach from Wisconsin after Ferguson enrolled in the University of Wisconsin. Ferguson was in Naples this weekend with his family when he got the call from the Cowboys that he had been drafted 129th overall.

He was at the home of his grandfather, Barry Alvarez, the College Football Hall of Fame enshrinee and former coach of the University of Wisconsin.

“It was definitely a lot of emotion,” Ferguson said.

The family had a low-key get-together at his grandpa’s condominium with family, while watching the draft on television to see where he would land.

“I was kind of on the edge of my seat,” Ferguson said.

A two-time All-Big Ten tight end, Ferguson received the call from the Cowboys in a call recorded by the organization and posted online before he was officially selected Saturday in the NFL Draft.

“We’ve turned your name in and want to put a star on your helmet,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said to Ferguson. “You’ve really been distinguishing yourself with your time in college. You are coming into a situation where it’s a good opportunity for you.”

“Let’s do it, let’s go to work,” Ferguson replied.

In a press conference after the draft, Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy said he had good grades on Ferguson upon visiting him at the NFL Combine.

“I really liked his attitude and his demeanor. I think he is an excellent fit for our guys,” McCarthy said. “I think he can play both on the line and off the line. I think he will be good in the insert schemes. He makes some competitive catches. He plays with some tenacity.”

That tenacity surely is connected to his deep football pedigree. His father Brad Ferguson was a linebacker at the University of Nebraska who coached him as a young child through high school.

A bronze statue in the likeness of Jake’s maternal grandfather Alvarez stands in front of the University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.

Alvarez “was all fired up” after the draft selection was made, Jake said. The three-time Rose Bowl winner told Jake “‘It’s time to go to work now. This is just the start,'” Ferguson said.

Ferguson has been playing football almost since he could walk, playing in his basement with his older brother Joe, who now works in real estate. Joe was a four-time bowl-winning safety with the Badgers.

Jake redshirted his freshman year in 2017 when the team defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl, and got to play with his brother by lining up on the scouting team.

“I think that was one of the most special times in my life,” Jake said.

In his four years as a starter with Wisconsin, Jake was on the three bowl-winning teams, losing by one point to Justin Herbert’s Oregon Ducks in the 2019 Rose Bowl.

Ferguson has earned high marks for his versatile game, ranging from his quickness as a receiver running routes, to his ability to set screens for runners with his blocks and his sure hands and leaping ability. He thinks tight end is the toughest position.

“You are blocking guys who are 40 to 50 pounds heavier than you and running routes against guys 30-40 pounds lighter than you,” he said.

Ferguson was the third of five Badgers selected in this year’s NFL Draft, following third-round picks Leo Chanal and Logan Bruss. Also drafted out of Wisconsin this week was Faion Hicks and Matt Henningsen.

When Ferguson gets to Cowboys training camp, he will be reunited with his old teammate, center Tyler Bladasz. At Wisconsin, Ferguson also played with Jonathan Taylor, who led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and rushing yards this past season.

After getting drafted, Bladasz texted him the message “Let’s go to work.”

Ferguson likes to spend time on Fort Myers Beach.

“I run on the beach. I come whenever I can,” he said.

He said he likes to relax and get away from the stress of playing football when he is here. When the COVID pandemic broke out in 2020, he spent a large amount of time in Fort Myers Beach running on the sand, working out and going to Hammerhead Gym.

“I enjoy the weather, I enjoy the island. I try to take the stress off,” Ferguson said.

He said the mental side of football is important.

“It gets really stressful. You have to have things to distress you,” he said.

For Ferguson, that means catching a movie while he relaxes at his family’s home on Fort Myers Beach. His family attended many of his games at Wisconsin when he played.

“He likes Fort Myers Beach for its “good food, good weather.”

He will leave town Thursday to head to Dallas.