ATLANTA — A common joke in Georgia among media members old enough to remember is the constant retelling of the praise that Bulldogs’ Hall of Fame coach Vince Dooley once lauded on an opponent’s long snapper.
However, to LSU long snapper Blake Ferguson, playing the position is no joke.
There were plenty of players who made more visible heroes in LSU’s 37-10 win over Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game before 74,150 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday.
However, the 2015 Buford grad’s contributions were no less important
Game Most Valuable Player Joe Burrow finished the game 25 of 38 for 349 yards and four touchdowns, the latter of which helped him set an SEC record with 48 scoring strikes on the season.
Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. had two interceptions, tying an SEC Championship Game record.
Even kicker Cade York set an SEC Championship Game record for most points by a kicker with his 13.
“Oh my gosh, he’s been amazing,” the 6-foot-2, 189-pound freshman said of Ferguson. “It’s been a blessing to come into my freshman year with a fifth-year senior and things have been going so good. Not only is he great on the field, he’s great off the field.
“I learn from him every game. Every time I miss a field goal, he’s the first to come up and tell me I’ve got the next one. He’s always got my back.”
It was a record York wasn’t even aware of until being informed in the locker room after the game, but he acknowledges that mark wouldn’t have been possible without the chemistry he’s developed with Ferguson.
“It’s a unit,” Ferguson said of playing on special teams. “We like to call ourselves a well-oiled machine. That’s what we are. We like to go out there and make kicks, and it takes the snap, hold and the kick. It’s a unit, for sure.”
For the four-year starter, three-time All-SEC Academic Honor Roll selection and 2018 All-American, the win was the culmination of one dream — playing in an SEC title game — and keeps another — playing in a national championship game — with the Tigers, who came into Saturday ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff standings, heading to the national semifinals at the end of the month.
“This is unbelievable,” Ferguson said. “To come back home (to metro Atlanta) and to be in front of these fans is unbelievable. To hear them yelling ‘LSU’ all night long in a place that’s not Death Valley is surreal.”
Ferguson is the latest in a long link between Buford long snappers and the LSU program, with his older brother Reid Ferguson having proceeded him from 2012-15 before going on to an NFL career with the Buffalo Bills, and true freshman Quentin Skinner set to succeed the 6-3, 235-pound senior next year.
But being a part of the former title and having a chance at the latter also helped the younger Ferguson achieves something even his big brother could not.
“I as in the stadium at the last the last SEC Championship Game (that LSU won in 2011,” Blake Ferguson said. “So to be able to come and do this and to kind of end it here, and by no means are we done, this is surreal.”
Ferguson and the Tigers may very well make a return trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the national semifinal, depending on where the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses to send them.
But whether his college football journey ends there or in the championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 13, he will eventually pass the torch on to Skinner the next Buford grad in line for the job with the Tigers.
Though he’s seen action in only one game this season, meaning he will likely be redshirted, Skinner says he has learned a lot about the job from Ferguson, both at Buford and LSU.
“Blake has been such a great guy to me,” the 6-0, 253-pound freshman said. “He’s mentored my since I was a little kid — him and Reid. Of course with him being five years older than me, I kind of learned from him.”
And Ferguson is confident his young protege is ready to accept the mantle.
“I told him after the last game at Tiger Stadium (in Baton Rouge against Texas A&M on Nov. 30), I said, ‘Now it’s your turn,’” Ferguson said. “‘We’ve got to pass this on to you,’ and I’m very certain he’s going to be able to pick it up when I passed it to him.”
Ferguson has also been paying attention to his other alma mater, and was very proud of the Wolves for making it back to the Class AAAAA state championship game with Friday’s semifinal win at Jones County.
“I catch up with them every week,” Ferguson said. “My dad was at the game (Friday) night, and he’s here (Saturday) night. So I’m always pulling for my guys Coach App (Bryant Appling) was one of my guys when I was at Buford, so I’m excited for what they’re doing.”