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Joe Ferguson had a tough act to follow – Terry Bradshaw -- when he took over as quarterback of the Woodlawn Knights.
Soft spoken and almost shy, Ferguson moved out of Bradshaw’s shadow when he led Woodlawn to an undefeated season and the state championship in 1968. But it isn’t the success of that ‘68 team Joe most fondly remembers.
“The season was outstanding because of the closeness of the football team and the closeness of the coaches. We had a great coaching staff at that time with A.L. Williams the head coach. But just the closeness of the school, the team together. It was fun to get up and go to school in those days,” he said.
Joe’s passing for nearly 7,000 yards and 86 touchdowns at Woodlawn earned him a scholarship to Arkansas, where one season he was the conference player of the year after a school record 31 completions in a game. Even though Joe says Arkansas was the right choice for him, with a change in offensive coordinators his senior year, things went downhill.
“And we had a senior laden football team that year. It was a shame because we were a good football team but we ended up a mediocre football team because we changed offenses probably four times that year trying to suit the offensive coordinator and Frank Broyles to a point,” Ferguson said.
Joe is proud of is proud of his 18 years in the NFL, 12 of them with the Buffalo Bills where he started 107 games in a row -- plus three years with Detroit, two with Tampa Bay and one with Indianapolis.
He passed for nearly 30,000 yards and 196 touchdowns despite the Buffalo weather and the fact that for the first six or seven years of his pro career the Bills offense was built around the running of O.J. Simpson.
“I had no complaints. It gave me a chance to learn the game and be appreciative of how to handle the game as a job. To me it was a job and I worked at it because I enjoyed it,” Ferguson said.
“I enjoyed college, and I enjoyed pro football because I was able to play so much longer. But the most fun time I head was in high school.”
Along the way Joe beat both cancer and leukemia. Today the 67-year-old Ferguson sells real estate in Bella Vista, Arkansas.