You probably do remember Josh Ferguson. A three-year starter at running back less than a decade ago, your memory of Ferguson may not have faded quite yet. But I doubt you remember just how good he was.
After a medical redshirt season in which he played in just three games, Ferguson burst onto the scene in 2012, gaining 563 yards from scrimmage as a redshirt freshman while sharing the backfield with Donovonn Young.
But Ferguson really broke out in 2013. He rushed for 779 yards and 7 touchdowns as a sophomore, stealing Young’s starting job in the process. And he was Illinois’ second-most productive receiver as well, catching 50 passes for 535 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2013.
It was more of the same for Ferguson in 2014. His 735 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground once again led the team, and he continued to be a productive receiver with 50 receptions for 427 yards and 2 touchdowns. Perhaps the signature moment of his career came in 2014’s regular season finale against Northwestern as his 46-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter helped seal a bowl berth for the Illini.
In his senior 2015 season, he shared the backfield with future NFL Draft pick Ke’Shawn Vaughn, but Ferguson’s 988 yards from scrimmage still led the Illini for a third consecutive season as he earned third team All-Big Ten honors.
In total, Ferguson had four very good seasons, but not really any great ones. And maybe that’s why he’s not remembered as fondly as he should be. Ferguson lacked one great, standout season, but his consistency places him among all-time Illini greats. He’s Illinois’ sixth all-time leading rusher (2,586 yards), ahead of the likes of Pierre Thomas, Rashard Mendenhall, and Howard Griffith. His 168 receptions are the third-most ever by an Illini regardless of position, and his 1,507 receiving yards are the most ever by an Illinois running back. And Ferguson is also seventh on Illinois’ career touchdown list with 26 and second in all-purpose yards with 4,474.
He’ll probably never be compared with great Illini running backs like Robert Holcombe, Jim Grabowski, and Mikel Leshoure, but he should be. Josh Ferguson was an all-time great Illini, too.