Ferguson and The Auburn Plainsman staff during the Auburn v. Georgia game in 2013.
Justin Ferguson was just meters away as wide receiver Ricardo Louis sprinted past him, making the play of a lifetime. The Hail Mary touchdown against Georgia — now known as ‘The Prayer at Jordan-Hare’ — protected Auburn’s chances of making it to the BCS National Championship in 2013. On the sidelines as a Sports Reporter for The Auburn Plainsman, witnessing this spectacle was an added spark to Ferguson’s fire for football.
“Even though I never played football, I knew how much it meant to a lot of people because I grew up in that culture and I know how important it is to people here at Auburn,” said Ferguson, a 2015 journalism graduate and Auburn Beat Reporter for SEC Country.
Covering the Auburn beat, Ferguson writes football year-round, but also covers basketball and women’s softball for the SEC Country as well.
He first started covering Auburn when he volunteered at The Plainsman, working to get noticed without stepping on “other people’s toes.”
“To learn that in undergrad was big,” says Ferguson. “I got a lot of job opportunities in undergrad just because I kept asking questions and learning a little bit about their journey and that got me going.”
It was only natural for Ferguson to be an Auburn Football fan. He grew up in the Auburn area to a mother and father who both attended the university and were active playing sports in the community.
Growing up, Ferguson played basketball, golf and baseball. When he went to college, he knew what he wanted to do: write about sports. He loved it and knew how much other people love it.
“It’s a great way to bring people together. It brings the Auburn family together, it brings a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds together,” Ferguson says. “You get to tell the story of some really cool people and some great athletes trying to get their side of the story. It’s very busy — there’s always something going on — but I enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like a job when I write about sports everyday.”
During his senior year at Auburn, Ferguson covered Auburn sports and national football topics for Bleacher Report and continued after graduation. One fateful fall day in 2016, Ferguson received a call while he was interning under Sporting News in Charlotte, N.C. An individual he met during his internship offered him a position as an extra Auburn sports writer for SEC Country, what Ferguson would consider his ‘lucky break’. In a week, Ferguson jumped on the opportunity to cover Auburn full time.
Ferguson interviews Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson at a press conference.
“It’s an honor to have a job like this, covering SEC football and basketball teams at my age. These are the kind of jobs people work several, several years to get to and to be able to do that after two years out of college is a blessing.”
Ferguson maintains his competitive edge in the crowded world of sports journalism by being a “smarter” writer, especially when writing personality features.
“We don’t get to hear the stories behind every single player. I approach writing believing that all of them have a unique story. Why did they come to Auburn? Why do they play football? It’s about tapping into that, finding those different angles.”
Ferguson rarely has any ‘off’ days. He covers several teams and has to constantly keep up with the news and changes that accompany each. His saving grace is his siblings, parents and grandparents close by. For tough days, Ferguson can conveniently visit his family for support.
“Having them around also makes me feel like I always have somebody in my corner whenever work gets chaotic,” Ferguson says.
His family also adds perspective to his articles, reminding him of whom he is writing for and providing insight on what Auburn fans want to know.
“You have to work hard, you gotta realize you will always be on the clock. [But] work is not the most important thing in your life. Having a good backbone behind you for support like family and friends; that has been a big blessing for me.”
Since his hiring at SEC Country, Ferguson has been writing articles on the team he loves. His personal goal is to become a smarter fan and to inspire his audience to be smarter fans as well.
Ferguson sees himself covering college sports for the rest of his career, but is open to other opportunities
“I like being on college campuses, covering college football and college basketball. The passion people have for it is really unbelievable and it makes for a really good audience to write for. You gotta love that passion.”