Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson has died after authorities found him unresponsive 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 did not rule 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 deepest condolences to Jaylon’s family and friends as we mourn the loss of a life too soon.”
Baltimore police said Northern District officers responded around 11:25 p.m. Tuesday to reports of a questionable death at a home in the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue in Baltimore’s Harwood neighborhood. There, police found Ferguson unconscious and receiving medical treatment.
“Ferguson never regained consciousness and doctors pronounced him dead at the scene,” 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 will 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 reporting 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 kind-hearted, gentle person who loved his family and his team,” Harbaugh said in a statement released by the team. “It was a pleasure talking to him and being around 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 understanding. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser said Ferguson’s “positive energy, encouragement and confidence in me helped me become the player and man I am today.” Defensive lineman Calais Campbell said Ferguson “usually had a big smile on his face and would brighten up the room with a joke.” Inside linebacker Josh Bynes wrote on Twitter that he and Ferguson “joked together, laughed together, prayed together, fought together on the field!!”
Safety Tony Jefferson said Ferguson told him before leaving minicamp that he was “ready to have a great year, and he thought it was going to be his best season as a Raven.” Inside linebacker Patrick Queen, a native of Louisiana, shared on Twitter that he had recently had a conversation with Ferguson. “We 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 he never tried to downplay his teammates to get there. While he was going against him in practice, he always told me when he was doing a good job, even when it meant he was against him. He was always with a smile and was 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 he was about to be born. He was always talking about them and how he plays for them.”
A third-round draft pick in 2018, Ferguson set the Football Bowl Subdivision record for career sacks (45) at Louisiana Tech, eclipsing the mark of former Arizona State and Ravens big man Terrell Suggs. Then-Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale told Ferguson after he was drafted that he was “the best pass rush interview I’ve ever had.” When you started talking about passing passes, your eyes lit up and I can’t wait to bring you here.”
Ferguson was a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, earning Conference USA 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 earn a college degree.
“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 field and his infectious personality off it.”
The day before Ferguson was drafted in April 2019, a tornado packing 130 mph winds tore through Ruston, a small town in northern Louisiana, including parts of the Louisiana Tech campus. The storm left two people dead and caused $9 .1 million in damage to city property. Ferguson later joined a wave of volunteers who helped clear debris, drop off food, water and supplies, and help those in need.
Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker called Ferguson a “class act,” a “strong role model” for the area’s youth, and “a great pass-rusher, too.”
“We lost a person with a big heart and a desire to help the community, no matter where he is,” Walker said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He wasn’t from Ruston, but he adopted the town nonetheless. And during a time of need, he stepped up, 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 thing when you go out there and actually get the job done.”
Robb Odom, Ferguson’s football coach at West Feliciana High School in St. Francisville, Louisiana, said in an interview that Ferguson had good manners, was quiet and always “mind his own business.” Ferguson had a big heart, Odom said, and “he didn’t have an iota of selfishness in his body.”
When he was able to return to Louisiana, Ferguson often visited his alma mater. West Feliciana retired Ferguson’s high school jersey, No. 44, last year. Ferguson’s father, Richard, also wore No. 44, and they often argued over who was the better player, Odom said.
“The whole community is shocked,” Odom said. “It is a sad, sad day. He will be missed.”
Residents of the 400 block of Ilchester Avenue said they were shocked by the news. They were not aware that Ferguson had any connection to the neighborhood, which they said is tight-knit and relatively quiet.
“What the hell was a Ravens player doing on this block?” said Lawrence Cox, 40, sounding incredulous. Cox had just stopped outside his home Wednesday afternoon, apparently falling asleep during the police response overnight. “That’s breaking news for me,” he said.
baltimore ravens insider
Want inside information on the Ravens? Become a Ravens Insider and you’ll have access to news, notes and analysis from The Sun.
Krystle Livering, 40, said she woke up around 4 a.m. to see a car being towed away from the scene. Hours passed before she realized 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,” he said. “It’s really sad.”
Ferguson is survived by his fiancée, Doni Smith, and their three young children, Jrea, Jyce and Demi. On her Instagram story on Wednesday, Smith shared videos of Ferguson playing with her children and family photos of them together.
“I love you very much!!” she wrote. “I will never in my life feel the love you gave me baby! It has always been us. You really left me alone in this world baby. I’m broken. I’m hurt. I want you back!!”
Baltimore Sun reporter Matt Cohen contributed to this story.