Ferguson latest former K-State trainer to make Super Bowl

By Kelly McHugh

Jeff Ferguson has been trying to enjoy every single moment this week, and for good reason.

The former Kansas State football trainer hopes the week-long festivities in New Orleans is capped with a San Francisco 49ers victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

If so, Ferguson would become the third former Wildcat trainer to be part of a Super-Bowl winning franchise.

Ferguson, who worked with the K-State football program from 1997-05, is in his sixth season as the 49ers’ director of operations and sports medicine.

New England Patriots athletic trainer Jim Whalen worked for K-State from 1997-99 and has been a part of three Super Bowl wins (’02, ’04,’05).

There’s also Tampa Bay’s Todd Toriscelli, who was at K-State from 1990-92 and was a part of the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win in 2003.

“I’m not sure if there’s another school that’s had this many active head athletic trainers in the NFL,” Ferguson said during a recent phone interview. “You know, there’s only 32 teams in the National Football League and three of the head athletic trainers were at K-State at some point in time.”

Ferguson started as the assistant under Whalen in 1997. In 2002, when Whalen accepted the job with the Patriots, Ferguson took over the top job here.

“Coach (Bill) Snyder was kind enough to see something in me and make me the head athletic trainer at K-State,” Ferguson said. “I miss Coach Snyder a great deal, there’s not a week that goes by that I’m not applying something here that I learned from Coach Snyder — whether that’s using one of his ‘16 goals for Wildcat Success,’ or dealing with the media.”

Applying those core values Snyder preaches, Ferguson has climbed the ladder within the 49ers organization, going from head athletic trainer to director of operations and sports medicine two years ago.

There’s a lot on Ferguson’s plate.

“Trent Baalke, our GM, called me into the office and said that they wanted me to continue doing what I do on the medical side, but they’d like to give me more responsibility,” Ferguson said. “I welcomed that. It’s pretty special, and it’s pretty unusual among my colleagues in the NFL for an athletic trainer to have that role.”

There’s no such thing as a typical day for Ferguson, he said, as he acts as a gatekeeper for the 49ers health and medical safety.

“We’re responsible for the care, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of any athletic injuries that might occur,” Ferguson said. “So, we utilize doctors, and I manage that aspect of it.”

But on the football operations side of his job, Ferguson’s days just get busier, whether it’s handling the 49ers’ video department, which he oversees, or planning the logistics behind the team’s travel plans.

“It’s always a busy day,” Ferguson laughed.

The 49ers arrived in New Orleans last Sunday for the Super Bowl.

“I’m just embracing this very special time and I’m looking forward to sharing it with my staff, the players, the coaches and my family,” said Ferguson, who isn’t the only former Wildcat on the 49ers’ staff. Former K-State defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt coaches the linebackers.

The 49ers, who are 5-0 in their previous Super Bowl appearances, haven’t been in the big game since they defeated the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX in 1994.

“It has been a very special season,” Ferguson said, “I think that throughout the season our mantra from Coach (Jim) Harbaugh is to take it one game at a time, compete, prepare and just work hard.”

Originally form Clemson, S.C., Ferguson said Manhattan still has a special place in his heart. After all, this is where he and his wife Rebecca started their family.

“Coach Snyder, he and Sean (Snyder), were the first people to see Maddy when she was born — she’s 12 now,” Ferguson said about his first daughter. “What a fabulous place to raise your family. We do miss Manhattan and the folks there a whole lot.

“There are so many people that played a big role in where I am personally and professionally from Manhattan, Kansas, and from Kansas State. I’m always a Wildcat at heart.”

The Super Bowl kicks off 5:30 tonight on CBS.

Former Indian playing for 49ers

Former Manhattan High student Michael Wilhoite plays special teams for the 49ers. He was born in Manhattan and attended MHS briefly before graduating from Highland Park in Topeka.

Wilhoite, who played quarterback in high school, was undrafted out of Washburn.

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