by Andrew Stark
Rising Butler High School senior quarterback Riley Ferguson picked up his first college scholarship offer during his freshman year. The offer came from national football powerhouse LSU, and it occurred before Ferguson had thrown a single pass on the varsity team.
Since then, Ferguson has broken the Bulldogs’ record for career touchdown passes (75) and single-season yardage (3,346), and added offers from schools such as Virginia Tech, South Florida, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Maryland, Clemson, Auburn, Alabama, Louisville and Michigan.
Recently, however, Ferguson received a scholarship offer from a school he simply couldn’t resist.
On June 15, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Ferguson made a commitment to attend the University of Tennessee.
Ferguson’s coming off a junior season in which he completed more than 66 percent of his passes for 48 touchdowns with only eight interceptions and a video-game-like 217.7 quarterback rating.
ESPN.com ranks Ferguson as the 199th-overall prospect and 12th-best quarterback in the Class of 2013. He recently attended camp at Tennessee, and it didn’t take long for him to impress the Volunteer coaches.
“They run a pro-style offense similar to the one we run (at Butler),” Ferguson said. “The pro-style offense really suits me – I can make things happen with the ball in my hands. We ran the same type offense when I was an 8-year-old, and we threw the ball a lot then, too. It is what I have always been accustomed to.”
After the first day of camp, Ferguson said the coaching staff called five minutes after he left to offer him a scholarship. A week later, he accepted their offer.
“I ended up knowing it was the right school for me,” Ferguson said. “When I went to camp, everything just felt right with all of the coaches and how they acted toward me.
“I have always liked Tennessee since I was little. The room at my dad’s house was painted orange and black, like the Tennessee colors, because I liked them when I was younger.”
It helps that his dad, Don, is from Johnson City, Tenn., and he still has relatives in the area. But Ferguson said the decision ultimately came down to what he thought was the best fit for him.
“Everyone has advice, and I listen to what people say, but I like to look at things from my point of view because I am the one going to the school,” Ferguson said. “I made the decision based on things that are going to affect me, like the quarterbacks they have and the whole situation.”
Throughout the recruiting process, during which college coaches were in touch with him nearly every day, Ferguson said he had thought about playing at every school that offered him. But he said he feels strongly about his commitment to Tennessee. Now that the recruiting process is over, he can focus on his senior season.
“It has been a crazy process, and it is definitely a relief that it is over,” Ferguson said. “It was fun, but it was overwhelming. If I had to do it again, I would narrow it down to a few schools and work on establishing good relationships with the schools I really liked. But I am happy how it turned out.”
Bulldogs coach Brian Hales said he’s extremely happy for Ferguson and is excited that the quarterback can focus solely on the season and winning another state championship, which Ferguson helped the Bulldogs attain in 2010 after another Butler signal-caller, Christian LeMay, led the team to a title in 2009.
Ferguson is gearing up to lead the Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 25 in MaxPreps.com’s national preseason rankings, back to a state title and said Hales and his teammates have three goals: go undefeated in the Southwestern 4A conference, win the league championship and claim another state title.
“Those are our goals, and we won’t celebrate anything until we have achieved them all,” Ferguson said. “Until we get there, we have to work.”