In May 2015, former Butler High All-America quarterback Riley Ferguson was trying to figure out where his life was headed. By then, Ferguson had left Tennessee, where hestarted his college career after leading Butler to two state championships and throwing for more than 8,000 yards.
In an interview with the Observer, Ferguson -- who had been detailing cars at a Charlotte-area car shop and later took work custom painting fences -- said he would soon enroll at a junior college in Kansas to jump-start his career.
He’s done just that.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
On Saturday, Ferguson will start for Memphis against No. 25 UCLA in a nationally televised game on ABC (noon, WSOC-TV, Channel 9 in Charlotte). Ferguson will play against Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen, a potential No. 1 NFL draft pick. As for what got him here, Ferguson told Yahoo Sports that he credited the day he didn’t have enough money to buy lunch.
“I sat at the warehouse by myself,” Ferguson said. “I said, ‘This is unbelievable.’ I’m sitting here hungry and have no money. I know I could be doing something else with my life."
Ferguson, who left Tennesee in May 2014, threw for nearly 3,000 yards in one season at Coffeyville (Kansas) junior college in the fall of 2015. He won the starting job at Memphis last year, when he threw for 3,698 yards, 32 touchdowns and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. He was 10-for-25 for 97 yards in a season-opening 37-29 win over Louisiana Monroe on Aug. 31. Memphis’ second game last week at Central Florida was canceled by Hurricane Irma.
According to Yahoo Sports, Ferguson projects as one of the top 10 NFL prospects at quarterback as a potential late-round pick.
Five NFL scouts -- from the Bills, Cardinals, Chargers, Raiders and Redskins -- will be at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis to watch Saturday’s game. Most will probably be there to see Rosen, but they’ll see the kid from Matthews, too. And Memphis coach Mike Norvell told Yahoo that he’s pretty sure Ferguson is a pro.
“If he’s not a legit NFL quarterback,” Norvell said, “I don’t know if I’ll see one.”