MOBILE, Ala. – As exciting as it may be this week for those NFL prospects participating in this week's Senior Bowl, there are no guarantees. That can be especially true for the specialists knowing there's usually just 32 kickers, punters and long snappers active in the NFL in a given year. For LSU long snapper Blake Ferguson however, the path to the league has been made considerably smoother.
Ferguson (6-3, 236) likely won't be drafted. Only a few long snappers ever have. It makes breaking into the NFL all the more difficult because you're relying on NFL clubs to give you a look in a tryout, or even better sign you to an undrafted rookie contract to prove yourself.
Ferguson has the uncommon benefit of having an older brother already in the league and performing very capably as the long snapper of the Buffalo Bills. Blake Ferguson is Reid Ferguson's younger brother.
When Reid was a senior at LSU, Blake was in his redshirt freshman year as his backup.
"Reid was great," said Blake. "He was able to answer any questions that I had. So, it made me comfortable moving on campus to a new place, to a new city with a lot of new people and it made me comfortable having somebody familiar there at the very beginning."
After his older brother graduated, Blake took over for the Tigers, while Reid tried to carve out an NFL career. Though they were more than 1,500 miles away from one another they spoke every day and long snapping was at the core of most of their discussions.
"We're constantly sending film back and forth," said Blake. "I'll text him after my games. He'll text me after his games and say, 'Hey, did you see this snap? Did you see that snap? Did you see laces here?' It's fun to kind of have each other's back in that way and obviously he's the three-year pro, and so he probably has a lot more advice for me than I do for him, but it's good to have an extra set of eyes on you and able to answer questions."
Blake knows the road to landing an NFL job won't be easy even with all his accolades as a major collegiate long snapper. He watched his brother get cut as a rookie and search for a job for two months before landing a practice squad job with Buffalo. That eventually led to his current role with the Bills on the active roster.
"I think it just comes with the position," said Reid of the unconventional way long snappers make it in the NFL. "You've got to know what you're getting yourself into. You may be the best one coming out with all the accolades and whatnot, but you might not be number one on everybody's list. So you just put your best foot forward and see what happens."
Reid's three seasons as a very consistent long snapper with Buffalo only helps Blake in his quest to fill the same role in the NFL, both in terms of name recognition in the league and NFL experience.
"I would say he's definitely further along in the process than I was," said Reid of his brother. "Just because he's got someone to kind of give him that advice from a from a first-hand standpoint."
"It's a huge resource as I make this transition," Blake said. "To be able to have an older brother who's been through this before and been through the whole process. And he's been so good to me so far and we're going to train together here in the next couple weeks once he gets back down to Atlanta. I'm looking forward to it."
Reid made it down to the national championship game in New Orleans to watch his brother win the national title with his LSU teammates. He will also be at the Senior Bowl game on Saturday to see his brother play in a collegiate uniform one last time.
"It's a way for me to show support for his success," Reid told Buffalobills.com. "To be chosen for this game… it was a goal of mine coming out and I didn't get chosen for this game. I went to another all-star game, the NFLPA bowl and had a blast there. But this is kind of the primo pre-draft game, the Senior Bowl. All the eyes are on this game. You get to play with the best guys coming out. So that's, yeah I mean it's just it's a good way for me to show support for him to be there for him."
As much as Blake appreciates the support, his primary focus is on getting signed and into an offseason camp and to an NFL training camp, which hopefully leads to a bona fide chance to make a roster.
"I'm telling everybody that I've talked to that all I want is an opportunity," said Blake. "Whether it's draft pick, or whether it's an undrafted free agent, all I want is an opportunity. I love this game so much I've dedicated so much time and hard work into it that that I just want to keep playing as long as I possibly can."