Chris Ferguson is the second-youngest of 11 children, so you can understand the appeal of a sport that allows him to be the boss of 10 other people.

“I had my own room. Shared a bathroom, though. That was tough. They’d leave the door locked,” Ferguson said of life with nine sisters.

“I was pretty much around girls all the time. I still played with my Buzz Lightyear; it wasn’t always Barbie dolls. Every time I got to hang out with friends, it was a privilege because otherwise I’d always have to be doing girls’ stuff. It was great to just be able to throw a football around.”

Ferguson learned to throw it well enough to earn a scholarship to play quarterback at the University of Maine, signing his letter of intent Wednesday.

Ferguson, a 17-year-old from the Philadelphia area, is one of the 13 incoming freshmen in Coach Joe Harasymiak’s initial recruiting class.

He’ll bring with him a large, built-in fan club. Ferguson’s sisters range in age from 36 to 16. His lone brother is 28, and frequently vacations in Maine with his wife. They’ll be cheering him on when he arrives in Orono this summer, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete who is accustomed to having to compete for attention.

Ferguson transferred to La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, as a sophomore, hoping to earn enough playing time at the regional football power to land a Division I scholarship. But Kyle Shurmur arrived at the same time with the same dream, and was a year older. Shurmur started for two years while Ferguson tried to be patient. His time finally arrived when Shurmur left to quarterback Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference.

“It was discouraging at times. My junior year, I almost threw in the rag. I said, ‘I’m not going to play anymore. I’m just going to go play golf,’ ” Ferguson said.

“I think what kept me going was that drive just to prove everybody wrong. I always loved football and I knew if I didn’t play anymore I’d regret it. I knew I had the talent.”

Ferguson had a solid senior year, throwing for 1,505 yards and 16 touchdowns as La Salle won Philadelphia’s Catholic League title. But his only scholarship offer came from Bryant. Temple told him he could walk on and try to earn a spot.

It wasn’t until after the season that Massachusetts started looking at him. Quarterbacks coach Liam Coen was intrigued, but the Minutemen ended up choosing a college transfer instead. But when Coen accepted the job as offensive coordinator at Maine, things heated up.

“He called and asked about coming down. I said, ‘When?’ He said, ‘Tomorrow,’ ” Ferguson said.

Maine’s coaches made a rather tranquil home visit (only two of Ferguson’s sisters still lived there) and offered a scholarship. Ferguson came to Orono on an unofficial visit last weekend and by Wednesday was officially a Black Bear.

For Coen and Harasymiak, Ferguson is appealing because he ran a similar pro-style offensive system to the one they plan to install.

“This was an important get. This system is new for everyone, so to ID a kid that fits in with that system, to have the ability to do the five- and seven-step drops, is huge. He’s a big kid and he’s only going to get bigger,” Harasymiak said of Ferguson.

“He’s got the makeup of a quarterback. You can just sense with a kid sometimes how much football means to him. I think some quarterbacks just have ‘it.’ He’s a gamer and I think this kid might have it.”

Ferguson, who is also a post player on La Salle’s 17-5 basketball team, will graduate in May, then head north. He will compete for playing time with incumbent quarterbacks Dan Collins (senior), Drew Belcher (junior) and Jack Walsh (redshirt freshman).

Ferguson will spend the spring working with his quarterbacks coach at La Salle on speeding up his delivery, being quicker on his feet and getting more power on his throws.

He knows nothing is guaranteed, especially for a first-year player, but was heartened that Coen assured him the best athlete will get the starting job.

“It’s nice to be wanted,” Ferguson said. “I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. I’ve been fighting just to prove myself over the past three years. I kind of played with that all year.

“I definitely was under-recruited but I think I’m at a perfect place.”

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MarkEmmertPPH

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