Dennis Schmidt – Thank you for meeting with me to discuss your career. Let’s start with where did you grow up and go to college?
Jeff 'Fergie' Ferguson - Thank you for this opportunity. I grew up in Clemson, South Carolina and did my undergraduate at Clemson university and did my masters degree at University of Texas in Arlington back in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s.
DS - How did you become interested in joining K-State’s athletic department?
JF – A colleague of mine when I finished graduate school was fortunate enough to get the head athletic trainers position at Kansas State and he had called and inquired and said that he needed some help. That is what happened and that's when I moved to Manhattan Kansas in the ‘97 and loved it.
DS - When did you get interested in a career as an athletic sports trainer?
JF - I think Dennis probably at a very early age. I played sports in junior high school and found out that I probably didn't necessarily have the athletic talent that I needed to have and I wanted to be involved as much as possible with athletics and athletic training. The medical side is really interesting and I had a lot of good support from coaches and that got me interested.
DS – When you were on Coach Snyder's staff as an athletic trainer what were your responsibilities?
JF – I came on as an assistant athletic trainer for football with my colleague and Coach Snyder. My colleague left Kansas State for another opportunity and Coach Snyder was gracious enough to promote me to the head athletic trainers position with him and I stayed on for almost nine years.
DS – How long were you at K-State before you took on this expanded role?
JF - I believe it was a year or two, a couple of years as an assistant.
DS - Were you an athletic trainer for any other K-State teams, basketball, track etc.?
JF - I wasn’t. As an assistant at Kansas State first I was primarily football. One of the neat things (at K-State), I did help out with the women’s golf team. We also had the mentality and nature that we took care of whatever athletes needed. We didn’t necessarily say “no my responsibility is this”. So we all on the staff pitched in and helped out whether it was basketball or golf etc. Subsequently as head athletic trainer or Director Sports Medicine I was ultimately responsible for staff and to oversee the health and safety of all of our student athletes at Kansas State.
DS - What was it like being an athletic trainer for Coach Snyder?
JF - What was it like it? It was absolutely one of the greatest experiences, personally, as well as professionally. We have three children and all three children were born in Manhattan, Kansas. I can remember personally that the first person to see my daughter Madeline born, the first person to visit right after my wife came out of delivery was Coach Snyder. Personally and professionally the Sixteen Wildcat Commandments there is not a day in my current responsibilities that doesn't go by that I'm not practicing something or taking something that Coach has instilled in me. Again, personally, as well as professionally.
DS – Do you stay in touch with Coach Snyder to this day?
JF – Yes, I do. Either by a phone call, text message or a letter. Of course I don’t stay in touch as much as I should. I know with my schedule and with coach’s schedule we do. Every time we talk and visit its like we were together yesterday.
DS - What special memories do you have of players? Do you have any interesting stories?
JF - We were very fortunate during my time. We just had some fantastic players and fantastic young men. The stories are many many, too many probably, but, even the young men who went on to the National Football League to play and even the young men in their personal lives working in banks and different areas just touched.
DS - Are there other athletic trainers with a K-State connection in professional sports?
JF - As a matter of fact there is. A lot of folks don’t know this, but the gentleman that I came out to K-State to work with initially, Jim Weyland, is the head athletic trainer for the New England Patriots. Jim’s connection with Kansas State and Coach Snyder came through a gentleman, Todd Toriscelli. Todd is the head athletic trainer and Director of Sports Medicine and Performance for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coach Snyder’s tree is great, even without coaches, he has a fantastic coaches tree, but he also has a long athletic trainers tree.
DS – Six years ago you joined the pro ranks by becoming the athletic trainer for the San Francisco 49ers. Please describe the life of an athletic trainer for a professional sports team?
JF - An athletic trainer in the National Football League our responsibilities are the health and safety of our players. There’s not necessarily a big difference in the health care you deliver. This is a business situation and we are still able to practice athletic training and take care of our players as we are supposed to do and that comes with the support from ownership, the general manager and our head coach. I have been lucky.
DS – This past winter your responsibilities increased with the 49ers as you became the Director of Football Operations and Sports Medicine. What are your new responsibilities?
JF – They did increase and I am very appreciative of that and being recognized by the general manager and our president. The duties they added just a few more. Not only am I responsible for the training room and medical responsibilities, but I also oversee the strength and conditioning department, the video department, the equipment room as well as what we call team logistics i.e. “planes, trains and automobiles”, hotels. So they added a few more to the plate.
DS - How do they mesh with being an athletic trainer?
JF – It may seem a little bit different at first, because it’s not typical for an athletic trainer to have that particular role or have that particular position as well, but when you think about it, its all what you call your service line. It’s all your service providers and I do it every day. I am in the trenches, so to speak. It’s nice because I know how each department operates.
DS – When you travel for the 49ers to away games do you get to talk with former K-State players?
JF – I do. We certainly want to win and beat the team we are playing, but we always with that K-State connection it is very special. We always have an opportunity before or even after the game. I do visit with some former coaches who were from K-State and former K-State players. I get to see and get a big hug from Darren Sproles and get an opportunity to see Jordy Nelson last season and have a few minutes to catch up and talk about some memories from K-State.
DS - With the ever changing team leaders i.e. , the head coach, general managers etc. how are athletic trainers affected in the NFL?
JF – There’s always a possibility for change, just as in any big business, college setting, whatever it may be. What I try to do is take again a lot of those Wildcat commandments that Coach Snyder had instilled in me and I try and practice them on a daily basis and try to do my job and now my role and do my job to the best of my ability. You hope that people recognize that and I’ve been fortunate to remain on board through some transitional periods.
DS – Is there anything else you would like to share with the CaliforniaCats in Northern California?
JF – Absolutely, although it is difficult for me to attend the Watch Parties because we are playing during that period as well, though I did go to one watch party, just know that you are not alone and we are out here together and GO CATS!