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Jonathan Ferrell remembered as FAMU football player, loving brother

Friends and family of Jonathan Ferrell grieved Sunday for the former college football player and recently engaged man, who had moved to Charlotte only months ago.

A day after he was shot and killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, Ferrell, 24, was described as a strong athlete who helped lead his high school team to a Florida state championship and played two seasons as a safety on Florida A&M University’s football team.

Ferrell was working two jobs in Charlotte, at Dillard’s and Best Buy, according to an individual close to the family.

Gregory Boler, who played linebacker on FAMU’s team with Ferrell, said his former teammate was a quiet, humble player, more of an introvert than many on the team.

“He wasn’t really the aggressive type,” Boler said of Ferrell, who grew up in Tallahassee. “He was a good guy, easy to talk to. ... He just liked to be around his friends.”

Boler said Ferrell had a deep friendship with his younger brother Willie Ferrell. They played on their high school and college teams together.

“Florida A&M University is deeply saddened to hear about the loss of one of our former student athletes, Jonathan Ferrell,” the school said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers go out to his family during their time of bereavement.”

Jonathan and Willie Ferrell were 16 months apart, according to previous news stories about their athletic careers. Their father died when they were toddlers.

Willie Ferrell posted a message on Twitter saying the family was grieving. He asked not be contacted and for people to “pray for us.”

“Don’t know how much I miss u,” Willie Ferrell wrote to his older brother Sunday. “I never cried so much.”

In a 2010 story about the brothers published in FAMU’s student newspaper, Jonathan Ferrell talked about how much he loved playing football with Willie.

“Playing football with him again feels like it did in high school, summer nights you don’t want to end because they are so much fun,” Ferrell said. “It’s refreshing to come in the locker room and have your best friend to laugh with.”

They have three other siblings, according to the story.

Ferrell had moved to uptown Charlotte off of West Trade Street, according to records. He had recently gotten engaged to a woman he knew from college, Boler told the Observer.

‘He’s not that type’

Ferrell’s high school coach, Ira Reynolds, told the Tallahassee Democrat it was tragic for someone so young to be killed.

“To lose him that way is incredibly difficult to deal with for anyone,” Reynolds said.

“He practiced hard and played hard. He didn’t talk very much, but when he said something, it spoke volumes,” said Reynolds.

Boler said he was surprised to hear that Ferrell may have been involved in a confrontation with police.

“It just didn’t sound like him,” said Boler, who lives in Atlanta. “He’s not that type at all.”

Ferrell had no criminal record in North Carolina, records show. He had a misdemeanor charge in Florida in 2011 that was dismissed.

In uptown Charlotte, Ferrell’s sister-in-law declined to comment to the media Sunday morning.

Alex Williams, who went to high school with the Ferrell brothers and was a close friend of Willie’s, told the paper that Ferrell “was the shepherd of the family,” and always watched out for his brother.

Staff writer Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and researcher Maria David contributed.

Portillo: 704-358-5041; on Twitter @ESPortillo
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