Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ex-QB Joe Ferguson feeling good after battles with cancer
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Dressed in a collared shirt and shorts, Joe Ferguson walked easily across the room, then treated himself to a bite to eat before a celebrity golf event. Forget golf. Right now, the former quarterback looks strong enough to step on the football field and throw a few long passes. It's hard to believe this is the same person who was fighting for his life early last year. After bouts with lymphoma and leukemia, generating support from fans all over the world, Ferguson is feeling good these days and is almost casual when discussing his health. "It was kind of strange, because I never thought I was as sick as I was," Ferguson said Monday. "They kept saying it was pretty bad and pretty serious, but I never felt like it myself. I never got as worried as some other people did."Ferguson was a third-round draft pick in 1973 out of Arkansas and went on to play 17 years in the NFL, including 12 years (1973-84) with the Buffalo Bills and two years (1988-89) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2005, he was diagnosed with Burkitt's lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer. Ferguson underwent chemotherapy, and he says that treatment led to another problem: leukemia. He was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia about a year and a half ago and was treated at the intensive care unit at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. With a weakened immune system, Ferguson also fought pneumonia, but all the while, he expected to pull through. "I didn't feel great, don't get me wrong, but I never thought I was close to not being around," Ferguson said. Eventually, Ferguson started regaining strength. He says the biggest breakthrough came when his appetite returned and he could start eating better. Now 59, he says the leukemia is in remission. He and his wife, Sandy, live in northwest Arkansas, not far from where he played college football for the Razorbacks. Frank Broyles, who coached Ferguson at Arkansas, was also on hand Monday at the Pat Summerall Celebrity Classic in western Little Rock. Broyles is impressed with his former quarterback's progress. "He has done the things you need to do when you have an illness," Broyles said. "He's gone to doctors, he's taken the treatment, and he's done everything they've asked him to do and he's improved dramatically. We're excited and pleased about that." Along the way, Ferguson heard from well wishers all over the world, including many Bills and Razorbacks fans. "A kid in Iraq saying, 'You were my hero.' I mean, how do you take that?" Sandy Ferguson said. "He had a lot of people praying for him. It was overwhelming. ... We're very thankful." Now Ferguson is looking forward to watching the Razorbacks this season - and trying to maintain his improved health. "I've been getting checkups every three months, and my blood count's staying good and all that," he said. "Trying to eat better and exercise and do the right things. We're doing fine."