Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson dies aged 26; Police say no signs of trauma or foul play – Baltimore Sun


 Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson dies aged 26;  Police say no signs of trauma or foul play - Baltimore Sun

Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson died after authorities found him unresponsive at a home in North Baltimore late Tuesday. he was 26

Officials have not released a cause of death, but the Baltimore Police Department said Wednesday investigators have not ruled out the possibility of an overdose.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Jaylon Ferguson,” the Ravens said in a statement Wednesday. “He was a kind, respectful young man with a big smile and an infectious personality. We send our heartfelt condolences to Jaylon’s family and friends as we mourn a life lost far too soon.”

Baltimore Police said Northern District officials responded to reports of a questionable death at a home on the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue in Baltimore’s Harwood neighborhood around 11:25 p.m. Tuesday. There, police found that Ferguson was unresponsive and was being treated by medics.

“Ferguson never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at the scene by medical professionals,” Baltimore Police Department spokeswoman Niki Fennoy said in a statement.

Police said there were no signs of trauma or third-party negligence. They said the coroner would determine a cause of death.

Ferguson entered his fourth NFL season in Baltimore. Last week at the Ravens’ three-day mandatory mini-camp, he looked leaner and more explosive before suffering what coach John Harbaugh called a sprained ankle. Ferguson, who was due to report for training camp in late July, had 67 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles in his 38 games (10 starts) with the Ravens.

“Jaylon was a kind, gentle person who loved his family and his team,” Harbaugh said in a statement released by the team. “It was a pleasure to talk to him and to be there every day. You’ve always wanted to see and talk to ‘Ferg’. Our prayers and help go out to his family. Our hearts are with his spirit. RIP, Jaylon.”

Ravens teammates described Ferguson as genuine and supportive. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser said Ferguson’s “positive energy, encouragement and belief in me helped make me the player and man I am today.” Defensive lineman Calais Campbell said Ferguson “usually had a big smile on his face and would brighten the room with a joke.” Inside linebacker Josh Bynes wrote on Twitter that he and Ferguson “joked together, laughed together, prayed together, fought on the field together!!”

Safety Tony Jefferson said Ferguson told him before leaving minicamp that he was “ready to have a big year and I believed it was going to be his best season as a Raven.” Inside linebacker Patrick Queen, also from Louisiana, shared on Twitter that he recently had a conversation with Ferguson. “Said it’s our turn this year,” he wrote.

“Jaylon had a pure heart,” said left tackle Ronnie Stanley. “He wanted to be a great player but never tried to downplay his teammates to get there. While he was up against him in training, he would always tell me when I was doing a good job, even if it meant it was against him. He always had a smile on his face and was eager to learn. He wanted to be better for himself and his children. He was so excited every time he had a new child about to be born. He’s always talked about her and how he plays for her.”

Ferguson, a third-round draft pick in 2018, set the Football Bowl subdivision record for career sacks (45) at Louisiana Tech, eclipsing the mark of former Arizona State and Ravens big Terrell Suggs. The Ravens’ then-defense coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said after Ferguson was drafted that he was “the best pass rush interview I’ve ever had. Your eyes lit up when you started talking about Pass Rush and I can’t wait to bring you here.”

Ferguson was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, winning the 2018 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year award and earning the nickname “Sack Daddy” from a teammate. Ferguson was the first member of his family to earn a college degree.

“The LA Tech Family mourns the tragic news this morning of the sudden death of former Bulldog great Jaylon Ferguson,” the Louisiana Tech football team said in a statement shared on Twitter. “We will remember his God-given talents on the field and his infectious personality off it.”

The day before Ferguson was drafted in April 2019, a tornado with winds of 130 miles per hour ripped through Ruston, a small town in northern Louisiana, including portions of the Louisiana Tech campus. The storm killed two and caused $9.1 million in property damage. As a result, Ferguson joined a wave of volunteers who helped clear up debris, donated food, water and supplies, and helped those in need.

Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker called Ferguson a “class number,” a “powerful role model” for the area’s youth, and “a damn good pass rusher, too.”

“We have lost someone with a big heart and a desire to help the community wherever he is,” Walker said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He wasn’t from Ruston, but he adopted the town. And in a time of need, he stepped up to the plate, as did some former players who came back. So it’s one thing to say, ‘I’m part of the community and I want to help,’ but it’s another thing to go out and actually work.”

Robb Odom, Ferguson’s football coach at West Feliciana High School in St. Francisville, Louisiana, said in an interview that Ferguson was good-natured, calm, and had “always gone about his business.” Ferguson had a big heart, Odom said, and “didn’t have a selfish bone in his body.”

When he was able to return to Louisiana, Ferguson often visited his alma mater. West Feliciana retired Ferguson’s No. 44 high school jersey last year. Ferguson’s father Richard also wore the No. 44 and they often argued over who was the better player, Odom said.

“The whole community is in shock,” Odom said. “It’s a sad, sad day. He will be missed.”

Neighbors in the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue said the news came as a shock. They were unaware that Ferguson had any connection to the neighborhood, which they said is close-knit and relatively quiet.

“What the hell was a Ravens player doing on that block?” said Lawrence Cox, 40, sounding incredulous. Cox had just pulled up in front of his house on Wednesday afternoon, having apparently overslept the police reaction overnight. “This is breaking news for me,” he said.

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Krystle Livering, 40, said she woke up around 4am to see a car being towed from the scene. Hours passed before she realized what the police investigation was about. She said she doesn’t recall hearing from Ravens players hanging out in the area.

“I have no idea what happened,” she said. “It’s just very sad.”

Ferguson is survived by his fiancé, Doni Smith, and their three young children, Jrea, Jyce, and Demi. On her Instagram Story on Wednesday, Smith shared videos of Ferguson playing with his children and photos of their family together.

“I love you so much!!” She wrote. “I’ll never in my life feel the love you gave me baby! We always have been. You really left me alone in this world baby. I’m exhausted. I’m injured. I want you back!!”

Baltimore Sun reporter Matt Cohen contributed to this story.

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