People to Know 2018: Blake Ferguson
One of the first things my younger brother, Blake, did when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes was search the Internet for famous people living with diabetes. I remember it well. He was 13 and desperate to find out whether his dreams were viable in the face of his diagnosis.
In his search, he came across Bradley Suttle, who played for one of the New York Yankees’ minor league teams—an irony, considering Blake is a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. But a centuries-long team rivalry had nothing on the connection Blake felt to this fellow athlete with diabetes. That spring, my dad and Blake drove from Atlanta, where we lived at the time, to Florida so Blake could meet Suttle during spring training.
When they returned home, my dad and Blake both raved about him. I could tell right away that Blake was excited to have a role model—someone who was competing at one of the highest levels in his respective sport while managing type 1. It inspired my brother to pursue his own athletic career. Now 21, he’s a football player at Louisiana State University (LSU).
I admire a lot about my brother, and high on that list is his upbeat attitude. He’s never viewed type 1 as a hindrance to accomplishing his goals. Instead, he asks, “How can this help me and how can I use my platform as an athlete to help others?”
I was a senior at LSU when Blake arrived for his freshman year. Going to college, I think he was a little bit nervous. He was away from home, had a new training staff, and was competing at the highest level of collegiate football. I worried for him, too. College ball is demanding for all players, but for Blake, grueling practices and games could lead to lows.
Turns out, I had no reason to worry. Blake’s diligence with diabetes management and commitment to performing to the best of his ability won again: Whether during a workout, practice, or game, he’s never had a scare or any kind of problem.
Eight years after his diagnosis, at college football games and events, I’ve seen countless families with kids who are living with type 1 diabetes come up to Blake and share their story. I’m reminded of my 13-year-old brother and the encounter with Bradley Suttle that changed his life. I’m so proud that Blake can be a role model for the next generation of athletes with diabetes.
Reid Ferguson is a professional football player with the Buffalo Bills and an advocate for people with diabetes. This year, as part of the American Diabetes Association’s Team Tackle, he traveled to Capitol Hill to alert Congress about the rising cost of diabetes and the need for
more affordable diabetes care.