Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson died after authorities found him unconscious Tuesday night at a North Baltimore home. He was 26 years old.
Authorities have not released the cause of death, but Baltimore police said Wednesday that investigators have not ruled out the possibility of an overdose.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of Jaylon Ferguson,” the Ravens said in a statement Wednesday. “He was a kind and respectful young man with a big smile and an infectious personality. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Jaylon’s family and friends as we mourn a life lost far too soon.
Baltimore Police said Northern District officers responded around 11:25 p.m. Tuesday to reports of a suspicious death at a home in the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue in the Harwood neighborhood of Baltimore. There, police found Ferguson unresponsive and receiving medical attention.
“Ferguson never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at the scene by medics,” Baltimore police spokeswoman Niki Fennoy said in a statement.
Police said there were no signs of trauma or foul play. They said the medical examiner would determine the cause of death.
Ferguson was entering his fourth NFL season in Baltimore. He looked leaner and more explosive at the Ravens’ mandatory three-day minicamp last week before suffering what coach John Harbaugh called a sprained ankle. Ferguson, who was scheduled to report to 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 sweet and generous person who loved his family and his team,” Harbaugh said in a statement released by the team. “It was a joy talking with him and being with him every day. You 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 self-belief helped me become the player and the man I am today.” Defensive lineman Calais Campbell said Ferguson “usually had a big smile on his face and brightened the room with a joke.” Inside linebacker Josh Bynes wrote on Twitter that he and Ferguson “joked together, laughed together, prayed together, fought together in the field!!”
Safety Tony Jefferson said Ferguson told him before leaving minicamp that he was “ready to have a great year, and I thought this would be his best season as a Raven.” Inside linebacker Patrick Queen, another Louisiana native, shared on Twitter that he had a recent conversation with Ferguson. “Said it was our turn this year,” he wrote.
“Jaylon had a pure heart,” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “He wanted to be a great player, but never tried to belittle his teammates to make it happen. Going against him in training, he always told me when I was doing a good job, even when that meant it was against himself. He was always smiling and eager to learn. He wanted to be better for himself and his children. He was so excited every time he had a new child that was about to be born. He was always talking of them and the way he played for them.
A third-round draft pick in 2018, Ferguson set the Football Bowl Subdivision record for career sacks (45) at Louisiana Tech, eclipsing former Arizona State and Ravens Great Terrell Suggs. Then-Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale told Ferguson after he was drafted that he was “the best fast pass interview I’ve ever had. When you started talking about passing rush, your eyes lit up, and I can’t wait to get you up here.
Ferguson was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, earning American Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2018 and earning the nickname “Sack Daddy” from a teammate. Ferguson became the first member of his family to graduate from college.
“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 pitch and his infectious personality off it.”
A day before Ferguson was drafted in April 2019, a tornado with 130 mph winds tore through Ruston, a small town in northern Louisiana, including parts of the Louisiana Tech campus. The storm claimed two lives and caused $9.1 million in damage to city property. In the aftermath, Ferguson joined a wave of volunteers who helped clean up debris, drop off food, water and supplies, and help those in need.
Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker called Ferguson a ‘class act’, a ‘solid role model’ for young people in the area and ‘a hell of a hustler too’.
“We have lost someone with a big heart and a desire to help the community, wherever they may be,” Walker said in a phone interview Wednesday. “He wasn’t from Ruston, but he embraced the town. And during a time of need, he stepped in, as did several returning former players. So it’s one thing to say, “I’m part of the community and I want to help,” but it’s another when you go out and do the work.
Robb Odom, Ferguson’s football coach at West Feliciana High School in St. Francisville, Louisiana, said in an interview that Ferguson was well-mannered, calm, and “always mindful of business.” Ferguson had a big heart, Odom said, and “had no selfish bones in his body”.
When he was able to return home 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 number 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 a connection to the neighborhood, which they say is tight-knit and relatively quiet.
“What was a Ravens player doing on that block?” said Lawrence Cox, 40, looking incredulous. Cox had just pulled up outside his house on Wednesday afternoon, after apparently sleeping through the night. “This is news to me,” he said.
Baltimore Ravens insider
Want the scoop on the Ravens? Become a Ravens Insider and you’ll have access to news, ratings and analysis from The Sun.
Krystle Livering, 40, said she woke up around 4am to see a car being towed away from the scene. Hours passed before she understood what the police investigation was about. She said she didn’t recall hearing of any Ravens players hanging out in the area.
“I have no idea what happened,” she said. “It’s just really sad.”
Ferguson is survived by his fiancée, Doni Smith, and their three young children, Jrea, Jyce and Demi. On his Instagram Story on Wednesday, Smith shared videos of Ferguson playing with his kids and photos of their family together.
“I love you so much!!” she wrote. “I will never in my life feel the love you gave me baby!” It’s always been us. You really left me alone in this world baby. I’m broken. I am hurt. I want you to come back!!”
Baltimore Sun reporter Matt Cohen contributed to this story.