MATTHEWS – A lot of high school football coaches will go an entire career and not have a player invited to the NFL Combine.
Next week, Butler head football coach Brian Hales will be keeping an eye on two former Bulldogs at the NFL Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Former Bulldogs Peter Kalambayi and Riley Ferguson have been invited to the combine in Indianapolis and both players could hear their names called during the NFL Draft on April 26 to 28. One draft analyst has Ferguson going in the fifth or sixth round while another analyst has Kalambayi going in the sixth round. The NFL Network will broadcast the NFL Combine, which will feature 336 players.
Kalambayi just finished up his college career as an outside linebacker at Stanford while Ferguson was the starting quarterback at Memphis the past two seasons. Both of the 2013 graduates were part of three state championship teams at Butler and were part of four teams that went 57-2 during their high school careers.
“It’s really unbelievable,” Hales said. “There are guys that go an entire career and never get to coach a kid that gets to go on like that. Here we are, we have two kids in that class. We are so blessed to get the opportunity to work with kids like that.”
Ferguson signed with Tennessee out of high school but left the school after one season. After working for a car dealership and a fence company, Ferguson landed at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. At Coffeyville in 2015, Ferguson averaged 327 yards passing a game after completing 225-of-332 passes for 2,942 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Ferguson was back on the radar map and the former Butler star was a hot commodity, drawing the interest of several major college football programs. Ferguson decided to finish his career at Memphis.
As a junior at Memphis, Ferguson put together one of the best seasons in school history when he threw for 3,698 yards and completed 280-of-443 passes. He threw 32 touchdown passes in 2016.
Ferguson’s senior year was even better as he completed 299 passes for 4,257 yards and 38 touchdowns, which is a single-season Atlantic Athletic Conference record.
“The success he had this year was no surprise at all,” Hales said. “It’s just a matter of getting into a situation that is most beneficial for him. The talent has always been there and it was just a matter of finding the right opportunity. In Coffeyville and then in Memphis, he found that and he put his talent on display.”
Now, Ferguson has been projected by several NFL Draft watchers as a late-round pick in April. Shining at the combine will increase those chances.
“Riley is such a competitor,” Hales said. “He is extremely talented in throwing the football and being athletic, but being a competitor is what stands out.”
Kalambayi went on to be one of the top outside linebackers in the country by his senior season at Butler and he signed with Stanford University.
Kalambayi was a team captain for Stanford this past year.
Kalambayi said playing for Hales and wearing a Butler uniform helped prepare him for the rigors of playing college football. Kalambayi was part of three state championship teams while at Butler.
“We had high expectations and the standards were very high,” Kalambayi said. “We only lost two games the entire time we were there. To be part of winning those state championships was special. But I remember the losses more than the wins.”
Kalambayi will see several familiar faces at the combine but none will be more familiar than Ferguson.
“To have Riley there is going to be pretty cool,” Kalambayi said. “Riley and I have been playing football and basketball together since the ninth grade. We went to our first football camp at Michigan together and we went together on (college) visits. We both understand the ups and downs of college football. We both have had ups and downs and I am just glad that both of us are going to have this opportunity. It’s crazy that we are going to be together again.”