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NFL All-Pro D’Brickashaw Ferguson Set to Tackle Nursing School

Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
Updated July 18, 2023
    NFL star D'Brickashaw Ferguson is going from the offensive line to the frontline of the healthcare field. He starts nursing school in the fall.
    D'Brickashaw Ferguson of the NY Jets standing on the field at a football gameCredit: Getty Images
    • Retired NFL star D’Brickashaw Ferguson plans to start nursing school in Fall 2023.
    • Nursing runs in the family – Ferguson’s mother is also a nurse.
    • Ferguson hopes to work as an ER nurse or a nurse practitioner.

    D’Brickashaw Ferguson, former all-pro offensive tackle in the NFL, faced down some of the biggest, toughest players for more than a decade. Now following his retirement, Ferguson has a new opponent, one that might be even more challenging: nursing school.

    “I just needed that sense of, ‘I think I can do this,” the 39-year-old Ferguson explained during an interview on the NFL Players: Second Acts podcast. “I wanted something that I could offer.”

    Nursing isn’t completely new to the NFL star; Ferguson’s mother is a nurse. Rhunette Ferguson earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing from New York University. Now, Rhunette’s Pro Bowl son will follow in her footsteps.

    D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s NFL Record

    For 10 years, Ferguson played left tackle for the New York Jets. The Jets snagged Ferguson as the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

    The left tackle never missed a game in a Jets uniform, racking up 160 consecutive starts — a testament to the stamina and persistence that would serve him well as a nurse. Even more impressively, Ferguson played 10,707 out of 10,708 regular-season offensive snaps.

    Ferguson has been called one of the best offensive linemen in the Jets’ history. But since retiring in 2016, Ferguson had been looking for a new challenge. And in June 2023, the tackle announced he’d take on nursing school in the fall.

    From the NFL to Nursing School

    Ferguson is no stranger to academics. He attended the well-regarded University of Virginia (UVA) and earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies while playing for the Virginia Cavaliers.

    But nursing school is a different ball of wax, and Ferguson found he needed to meet rigorous prerequisites before formally applying to nursing school. So the left tackle has been attending community college to check off the science courses required for nursing school admissions.

    “I hadn’t done science since, I don’t know, high school,” Ferguson confessed on the Second Acts podcast. “So my confidence in that space was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. …UVA was hard for me. So I’m like ‘I don’t know about this.’ So I went to community college, I took my prerequisites, and I just kind of started.”

    Now in his late 30s, Ferguson is looking for a new way to give back. He chose nursing, which is personal for Ferguson in more than one way.

    In addition to his mother’s history as a nurse, Ferguson also had a major surgical procedure as a child. At only nine-years-old, the future NFL player underwent open-heart surgery, which left him with a 10-inch scar across his chest.

    During the press conference announcing his retirement in 2016, Ferguson said, “This all started because a young boy who happened to have open-heart surgery desperately wanted to prove his toughness. Not only to himself, but to everybody — by playing football.”

    Now, Ferguson is ready to prove himself in a different way.

    [nursing]. I’m qualified to do this work and I play football. So if both of them help or encourage one another, great. But even without football I can still do my job with excellence.”

    ER Nurse vs. Nurse Practitioner

    While Ferguson has received admission offers from several nursing schools, he has not officially said where he’ll be starting classes this fall. He also has not chosen his nursing specialty.

    Ferguson says he’s considering either working as an emergency room nurse or becoming a nurse practitioner (NP). If he pursues the NP route, Ferguson will need a graduate degree in nursing.

    Once again, Ferguson’s mother served as an inspiration. After earning a master’s in nursing, Rhunette Ferguson worked as a neurosurgical assistant head nurse and a school nurse teacher. As D’Brickashaw charts his future path in nursing, his mother will certainly help guide his course.

    “One thing that she liked about nursing was the opportunity to learn a new space,” Ferguson said about his mother on the podcast. “But you can also learn a lot of different spaces.”