FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Among the many accolades associated with D'Brickashaw Ferguson, fashion adviser was likely not on the top of the list for most NFL fans.
As a man who is more than football, the New York Jets left tackle brings some special veteran advice to the team's young players, and it has nothing to do with protecting the blindside of rookie quarterback Geno Smith or the pass rush tendencies of a certain outside linebacker.
On Sunday, Ferguson will make his 125th consecutive start, representing every game played in his eight-year NFL career. But the well-spoken Ferguson is more than just a three-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the best offensive linemen in the league.
He also knows the hassles of being a large man who at times needs to look good.
At 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, Ferguson can't just walk into most department stores and find that perfect suit. So in August before the Jets first preseason game, he sidled up next to Jets rookie guard Will Campbell, himself 6-foot-4 and 311 pounds, and asked him what he would be wearing for the road trip. The Jets wear suits when they travel and Ferguson knows all too well the hassle of finding clothes when you're not a normal size.
“The first preseason game, I wasn't expecting to wear a suit and tie, so I went to 'Brick' and he brought in a Brooks Brothers blazer for me. Not borrow, he gave it to me,” Campbell told Yahoo Sports. “He is a very well dressed man. He tells me 'As long as the shoes match the belt, you're doing OK.' But it helps to have someone like that you can go up to and talk and ask questions. He'll fix my collar if I didn't put in on right, you know? You've got someone there who can help on and off the field. I mean, the guy has played with some great guards and has seen it all. It's a tremendous help.”
Campbell has a size 22 neck collar and wears a size 54 jacket. He said he “can't just walk into a Brooks Brothers and get something.” That Ferguson is there to help him with the little acclimation points of adjusting to the NFL is a huge help for Campbell.
He doesn't seek attention, quietly seated most days on a stool outside his locker. He shoots the occasional zingers at teammates then goes back to his cell phone, where he is often checking out news websites for the latest headlines in business and politics.
He bucks the trend for a stereotype as an athlete. He's well read and has varied interests while still playing at a relatively high level. With Sunday's start against the Oakland Raiders, Ferguson will maintain the second longest active streak of starts in the NFL.
“It’s definitely been a wonderful experience – it’s highs and lows, but the challenges always great and that’s something that every week you’re faced with,” Ferguson said. “You’re always facing the top defenders in this league. To go out there and do your best, that’s all you can ask for.”
But it is the man off the field, away from the helmets and pads and blindside blitzes, who amazes his teammates.
Running back Bilal Powell is two lockers away from Ferguson at the team's practice facility, and he speaks of his left tackle like one would a professor. If he wasn't playing football, Powell said that Ferguson would “probably be a lawyer, that's the way he thinks.”
Then Ferguson lumbers by to grab a towel, phone in his hand. He's on a news site, reading the front page headlines.
A month ago, the Jets rookies gathered together in one of the meeting rooms to hear a presentation on retirement and planning how best to utilize their 401(k) policies. The only non-rookie in the meeting was Ferguson. It wasn't the first time he was in the meeting. He was the only veteran hearing the speech given to rookies.
And it likely won't be the last time either.
“He loves to soak up knowledge. He knew a lot, it was crazy. The lady in there said every year, something changes and she said 'Brick' is in there every year to learn what's new. He said it is great, helps set you up for retirement,” Campbell said. “He was going on and on about it, how good it is and how you need to take advantage. He knew his stuff, he kept adding things and asking questions. We all were listening to it, for sure. They say some people are old souls and I think that's him. He's turning 30 but going on 65 years old, you know? He's very wise and I listen when he says something. He's more than football."
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Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo Sports. He can be followed for news and random tweetingson Twitter @KristianRDyer
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