Jason Ferris stalks next opportunity

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Jason Ferris specialized in getting himself to the right place at the right time during his years as a linebacker at the University of Montana Western, before graduating last year.

The former Beaverhead County High School great did that, in large part, by meticulously studying his opponents so he could mentally and physically prepare for every situation he might find himself in against them.

But not even the two-time All-American could have prepared fully for the unprecedented and unusual circumstances he got cast into during his time this year with an NFL franchise.

“It didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but it has been an alright experience,” said Ferris of his time with the Carolina Panthers, who released him this summer after getting just a brief, prismed look at the Dillon Beavers legend.

Though during his time with the Panthers, Ferris said he got a long enough look at the competition to know he could effectively vie for an NFL roster spot.

“I didn’t feel like it was too much for me. I felt like I had the speed and strength to compete there,” said Ferris of his journey into the land of the proverbial and literal giants of the NFL.

“There is definitely the size across the board in the NFL. In the Frontier Conference, you might have a couple of really big guys on each team, but everybody at the NFL level has that same great size and speed.”

“I ended up only getting three walk through practices,” recalled Ferris, who hurt his hamstring during a special teams drill this summer and didn’t get cleared to play again until it was too late for him to make the dramatic impression he needed to make the Panthers final roster.

The Panthers canceled their spring camp for rookies due to concerns over the coronavirus, which compelled the team to stage a severely modified version of its training camp in the summer.

“Training camp was way different,” said Ferris of the experience warped by the pandemic and a leg injury.

“The first week, we did nothing but COVID testing and only met online,” said Ferris, who never got the chance to talk with his Panther coaches in person.

“We were spread out throughout the stadium. We weren’t meeting together,” said Ferris.

“Each player had his own sky box,” said Ferris, who like the other players, had to wear a contact tracer during drills.

“It was a tough year to try to make the NFL, with everything being virtual,” said Ferris.

“I would have been a longshot anyway,” added the Twin Bridges native, who has bullseyed his longshots in football, becoming a two-time Frontier Conference Defensive Player of the Year and one of the nation’s leading tacklers after emerging from high school unrecruited by colleges, despite his having led the Dillon Beavers to a pair of Class A state titles as a linebacker and running back.

Ferris established himself quickly at the University of Montana Western, where he was a three-year starter at linebacker for the Bulldogs. He led his team—and the entire Frontier Conference—in tackles with an average of 11.9 stops per game last season, when opponents double- and triple-teamed him with would-be blockers on every play.

In addition to all his other honors, Ferris became the top vote getter from the NAIA last season for the Cliff Harris Award given to the best small college defensive player from the NAIA, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III.

Still, precious few have made the long jump from the NAIA to a final NFL roster.

Jason Ferris still has a chance to do just that, and he hopes to take the first hop back in that direction this spring.

“I am back in Dillon and training every day to stay in shape, waiting for next opportunity,” said Ferris, who hopes that opportunity will come through an offer from an XFL team—should that league go through with a spring 2021 season—or from a Canadian Football League franchise.

No one who has seen him play and is familiar with his core qualities as a person doubts his ability to make that happen, along with a successful subsequent leap into the NFL.