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LSU quartet moves to next stage of career at Senior Bowl

"I understand it's a business, and it's a tough one. But I think I'm ready for the challenge."

Mobile, Ala. – Blake Ferguson has room for error.

Just, not much of it.

Other members of the South roster this week in the Reese's Senior Bowl are position players and, as such, likely have years of film and perhaps tens of thousands of practice and game reps to lean on. The Senior Bowl is Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

Divide that number in half, lop off another 35 percent, and maybe that'll approach the exposure and accompanying margin for error that comes with being a long snapper, like Ferguson. For him, there may be even more pressure this week.

"Absolutely. Absolutely," Ferguson said. "You know, you have that sniper mentality as a specialist where you know you have one opportunity to go out there and do what you do best. A lot of these other guys, they have 50, 60 snaps a game to go and be All-Americans. We have 10. So it's a little bit different."

Ferguson and three teammates from national-champion LSU – offensive linemen Lloyd Cushenberry III and Damien Lewis, and tight end Stephen Sullivan – have this week to interview with NFL teams, practice in front of them, and then play against the North squad on Saturday.

Ferguson may have long odds of being drafted, but he also may have the best NFL insight. His older brother, Reid Ferguson, a former Tiger, has been Buffalo's long snapper since 2017.

Reid Ferguson was undrafted in 2016, waived by the Bills in August, resigned to the practice squad in November and became their long snapper in '17.

"He and I talk every day," Blake said. "We're constantly sending film back and forth talking about different schemes, different protections. We'll send different trick plays to each other. It's fun, but he's a huge resource to be to be able to learn from. He's a guy that's been through this whole process before, and so that's something that I'm using to my advantage, knowing that he can answer most, if not all, of the questions that I have.

"He said that you're going to have an opportunity to go out there and impress scouts, but at the end of the day, you're going to have to go and take a grown man's job. And that's plain and simple: When I get to training camp with whoever I'm with, whether it's a draft pick, whether it's an undrafted free agent, I've got to go and take a grown man's job."

And he already has studied his situation.

"That's something that I've done a lot of research on, to know, OK, who's looking for a long snapper?" Ferguson said. "I've ranked the teams 1 through 32 to know, OK, this team needed a snapper yesterday. Or, this team doesn't need a snapper but they may bring a guy in for training camp to compete. There's different levels of it, but it's unpredictable. Buffalo was, like, No. 21 on my older brother's list, and that's where he is now and he's been there for four years. So you never really can tell."

Few players have a solid idea of their NFL Draft fates at this point, including his more well-known teammates.

Cushenberry, a redshirt junior, started the final 28 games of his career and was the center every game for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Joe Burrow.

"At LSU I feel like I accomplished most of the things I set out to accomplish," he said. "So, I feel like I owe it to myself to come on this level and try to chase some more dreams. I understand it's a business, and it's a tough one. But I think I'm ready for the challenge and I look forward to trying to go out there and perform well this week and showcase my talents."

Cushenberry said his entrance to LSU was good preparation for entering the NFL.

"Coming into college I was a late signee, last guy," he said. "Not too many people knew about me. I stayed patient and became No. 18 at LSU, which is a great honor." The No. 18 at LSU – Cushenberry wore it as a patch on his jersey, as rules forbid offensive linemen from wearing 18 – has become synonymous with on- and off-field success, as well as a selfless attitude.

"Now I'm here, I'm ready for my opportunity," he said. "I feel like I'm a hard worker that's going to do things the right way on and off the field. You just have to draft me. You won't regret it.

"They've been preaching all week, practices, this is our Super Bowl. Every practice. Every rep, you can't take anything for granted. You've got to go out and finish every play and every rep."

Lewis, too, wasn't in high demand coming out of high school. He played two seasons of junior college before starting 28 straight games at right guard alongside Cushenberry.

"I just wanted to go to (junior college), try to show people that I've got it, and try to make those things possible," Lewis said. "I worked real hard and got a lot of Division I offers and I took LSU, and it was the best fit for me.

"This week is real important. I get a shot to come out here in front of these scouts, a great group of guys here, and just showcase my talent, go out there and compete with them, compete with the best and show the scouts what I've got.

"I'm going to work, come to compete, give it my all. A guy who's going to really just maul guys around, just come to compete and battle."

Sullivan started eight games and caught 11 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown as a sophomore, then started one game but was second on the team with 23 receptions, for 363 yards and two touchdowns, as a junior. As a senior, he logged time behind Thaddeus Moss and caught 12 passes for 130 yards.

"I means a lot (to get the Senior Bowl invite)," Sullivan said. "I didn't get many reps as a senior, knowing I had some players in front of me. I'm all about being a team player and things like that. But being here, I can show my talent."

He said this week is akin to a fresh start.

"That's exactly what it is, and I feel like you're just starting all over again. You're starting from the ground up. So I'm going to give it my all."

But Sullivan said he was accepting of his role at LSU.

"I'm just a team player," he said. "I'm all about winning and if me sitting on the bench helps make us a winner, then I'm OK with that. It came out pretty good – we won a national championship, so I'm fine with it."

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