When Joe Ferguson picked off Utah State’s quarterback for a record breaking 99 yard touchdown run on Sep. 1, there was a special member of his family cheering him on from the press box.
Many people might not have known at the time that Ferguson is the grandson of the Barry Alverez, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s athletic director. The two have kept their relationship on the down low for the entirety of Ferguson’s tenure with the Wisconsin football team.
Alvarez is a Wisconsin legend, who stepped into a bit of a mess when he first arrived in Madison. When Alvarez accepted the Badger head coach position back in 1990, UW had been struggling for almost six years to even garner a win.
The last time the Badgers had a winning season before Alvarez was in 1984, and they had only managed to win seven Big Ten games in the same span of time. It was clear that Alvarez had his work cut out for him, and that it was going to take some time before the Badges would return to their state of former glory.
Now, due to the set-up of college football, it can be hard for a team to make a “quick” comeback. In fact, most people would consider a “quick” comeback to take about five to seven years to achieve, and that is just to get back to a winning season.
No one imagined that Alvarez would manage to bring Wisconsin football back to its former glory in five years, let alone two. But that is exactly what he did, and by 1993 the Badgers were heading to their first Rose Bowl in almost three decades.
By the time that Alvarez would step down as Wisconsin’s head coach in 2005, he would leave with an impressive 118-73-4 record, three Rose Bowl titles under his belt and the pride of knowing he helped the team achieve their first Big Ten win in 37 years.
Less than 10 years later, it would be a descendant of Alvarez that would get his chance to shine at UW.
Ferguson stepped onto Camp Randall stadium with relatively few people knowing of his relation to Alvarez, and it seems that was the way that both parties intended to keep things.
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The grandfather and grandson kept their relationship under wraps, and while Ferguson might have added his relationship with Alvarez into his UW Athletics bio, it really wasn’t something that the family talked about.
Flash forward four years later, and it would be Alvarez who would get to watch his grandson complete a great achievement for Wisconsin. During the third period of Wisconsin’s game against Utah State, Ferguson would be able to pick off quarterback Keny Myers for a record breaking 99-yard interception/touchdown.
Afterwards, Ferguson talked to the Big Ten Network about what was going through his mind at the time during his career making interception, and surprisingly, it wasn’t how much attention he was going to get that night.
“One thing coach Leonhard talks about, is if you catch a game winning interception or take it to the house, and you’re near our tunnel, just run into the tunnel,” Ferguson said in an interview with BTN. “You’re done, just meet all of your teammates in the locker room.”
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While Ferguson stayed on the field with his teammates after his touchdown, he did admit that he was rather tired. However, he wanted to remain with his teammates for the rest of the game.
In the same interview, when asked if there was something he could reveal about his grandfather that others might not know about, Ferguson struggled before coming up with a surprising answer.
“To me, [Alvarez] is kind of a pretty boy,” Ferguson said. “He likes his massages and all that nice pampering. He comes off as a real hard nose guys, but on the inside, once you get to know him, he’s a softer, gentler guy.”
Ferguson and Alvarez might have enjoyed four years of being under the same roof, but that time is soon coming to a close. Ferguson is set to complete his final year with Wisconsin this year, ending the era of grandfather and grandson playing with the same jersey.
But fans need not be too sad, because there is yet another one of Alvarez’s decedents on the UW football team. Younger grandson and Ferguson’s younger brother Jake is a freshman and currently a tight end for UW.
While Jake may not see playing time this year (he is a tight end currently competing with five other tight ends for the backup spot next year), he still gets the chance to spend some time with his brother and grandfather on the field. That experience is one of the rarest in football, and is sure to bring this family even closer together.