Two former Center Grove football players travel east early next week in an attempt to make their NFL dreams come true.
Parker Ferguson starts driving Monday to Florham Park, New Jersey, located 45 minutes west of New York City and home of the New York Jets training camp. Jován Swann flies out a day later en route to his destination of Owings Mills, Maryland, training site of the Baltimore Ravens.
The former Trojan teammates — Ferguson is a 2017 graduate and Swann part of the 2016 class — are undrafted free agents approaching the exciting, yet challenging, weeks ahead from contrasting sides of the line of scrimmage.
Swann, a defensive lineman who played at Stanford before transferring to Indiana University for his final season of eligibility, worked out for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans before signing with the Ravens early last month.
Baltimore, which traditionally boasts one of the league’s elite defenses, signed Swann after another undrafted rookie, Xavier Kelly, sustained a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.
“My mindset is every day is an audition,” the 6-foot-2, 280-pound Swann said. “I’m trying to show my athleticism and my professionalism. You think of the Baltimore Ravens, and they play with tenacity and are in (postseason) contention every year. It only makes me hungrier to be an asset on their roster.
“The nerves play into it, but it’s the most excited I’ve been about playing because I’ve reached the professional ranks. I would be a fool not to be excited.”
Swann takes the field with a clean bill of health when the Ravens’ camp begins July 27.
Ferguson, meanwhile, plays the waiting game.
A versatile offensive lineman at Air Force the past four seasons, the 6-5, 315-pound Ferguson injured ligaments in his left ankle while performing a practice drill during New York’s Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on June 1. He underwent surgery two days later in New York City.
Ferguson had done enough to that point to be placed on injured reserve and invited back to the Jets’ training camp.
“Before I got hurt, things were going really well. The Jets decided not to cut me, so this is essentially a redshirt year,” Ferguson said. “I’m going to focus on the schemes and the reads and just really understanding the playbook.
“I’m just super grateful for the opportunity. As a kid, it was my dream to play in the NFL.”
Initially unable to place weight on his ankle after surgery, Ferguson used a scooter for two weeks before moving to crutches for a week. He’s since been in a walking boot, which is scheduled to come off shortly after his arrival at training camp.
Ferguson had been training to be New York’s backup center behind six-year veteran Connor McGovern. His ability to play most anywhere on the offensive line makes Ferguson a valued commodity as a possible backup guard as well.
Ferguson, who was to begin a five-year military commitment as a second lieutenant as a space operator at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, California, received more good news on July 6 when he learned he could begin his service once his NFL career is complete.
Time will tell if Ferguson and Swann one day get to match talents at the line of scrimmage during a Jets-Ravens game. At this point, everything is new and the possibilities endless.
“The offensive line has been a really awesome unit. They’ve been very welcoming,” Ferguson said. “And coach (Robert) Saleh is the real deal with his energy and his accountability. He holds everyone and himself to a high standard. He’s just a guy you want to play football for.”