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Jarrett Ferguson, director of strength and conditioning for football at Virginia Tech, provided a voice of recent experience when he addressed a group of eighth grade boys at Bedford Middle School Monday afternoon.
Ferguson, a 1997 Staunton River High School grad, was the guest speaker at this month’s Building Men of Substance meeting.
Ferguson stressed the importance of maintaining a good appearance at school, something his mother had always stressed to him. He also spoke from personal experience about the importance of hard work. Hard work got him on the football team at Virginia Tech, where he did well playing fullback.
“The problem was, I got too cocky,” he told the teens.
He said he was doing well on the football field, but let his grades slide. At the end of one semester, his mother, who he deeply respected, chewed him out over two very bad final grades. She threatened to ask Coach Frank Beamer to throw him off the team if he didn’t bring his grades up. Ferguson, who knew his mother didn’t make idle threats, took her seriously and that was a turning point for him.
“From that point on, I made dean’s list,” he said.
He was behind in some subjects, however, and had to get some help. Ferguson urged the teens to seek help if they are struggling in any class.
“That’s what I did,” he said.
Ferguson also warned the teens to be careful about the sort of people they hang out with. He said he’s seen bad company hurt a lot of professional athletes.
“You’ve got guys who make big-time money and get in trouble going out with knuckleheads,” he said.
Ferguson said he was a seventh round draft pick for the Buffalo Bills, although he commented that NFL stands for Not For Long. Actually he was surprised that he was drafted at all. He’s 5-8 and just didn’t have the size for professional football. He lasted through preseason before being cut.
Brian Wilson, BMS assistant principal, said Building Men of Substance is a program that started this school year. At present, it’s only for eighth graders.
Wilson said they wanted to start with eighth graders because they are the leaders at the middle school. There are 90 eighth grade boys at the school and Wilson said an average of between 65 and 70 of them attend the monthly meetings. Those meetings feature guest speakers who discuss topics such as respect, values, success, communication and relationships. Wilson said they plan to expand the program to include breakfasts.