Similar fate unites Ferby and Fant for final season together

Senior wide receiver Nacarius Fant will return for his fourth season after a knee injury along with running back D’Andre Ferby who was injured during the Hilltoppers’ 2016 home opener against Rice.

Sam Porter

Senior wide receiver Nacarius Fant and redshirt junior running back D’Andre Ferby have had similar fate in the game of football.

Both helped their respected high schools win a state championship. Both won Mr. Football honors their senior season with Fant in Kentucky and Ferby in Tennessee. Coincidentally, the two ended up being roommates their freshman year on the Hill.

“We met each other before we officially got here,” Fant said. “Him winning Mr. Football in Tennessee and me winning Mr. Football in Kentucky connected us automatically. It was kind of like a brotherhood we established. It’s been on since then.”

Unfortunately, their similar fate took a turn for the worse last season. On his first carry in the home opener against Rice, Ferby suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Later in the season, Fant suffered a torn ACL in practice that kept him out for the final five games and virtually all of spring practice. As a result, both went through rehab together in hopes of being ready for the season opener of the 2017 season.

“When he [Fant] got hurt in November, I had already been in rehab since September,” Ferby said. “I got to see him in person at rehab. The main thing that stood out to me was that he was patient. Since he only had one year of eligibility left, I was nervous he might not be back out here in time. I saw his hard work and determination and it motivated me also. Seeing us both back out here gets me excited.”

Now, both are expected to return in 2017 to play bigger roles than ever before in a Hilltopper uniform. With former running back Anthony “Ace” Wales gone, Ferby is expected to get the bulk of the carries with sophomore running back Quinton Baker complementing him. As a redshirt freshman, Ferby ran for 650 yards and a team high 11 touchdowns, complementing Wales in many short yardage situations.

“Coming off his injury, he’s full speed,” offensive coordinator Junior Adams said of Ferby. “He’s a big, physical downhill runner. The cool thing with Ferby is his presence in this offense. He’s a quiet demeanor guy, but comes to work every day. When he speaks, guys listen.”

Fant, along with redshirt sophomores Lucky Jackson and Quin Jernigan, will look to lead a flurry of receivers looking to replace the bulk of production from 2016. Despite missing the last five games, the Bowling Green native finished third in receiving behind only Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris, and is the team’s leading returning receiver in 2017.

“I love being around Nacarius. He’s been in the game for a while and he’s our veteran leader,” Adams said. “The thing that jumps out to me about Nacarius is that he has great ball skills. He’s a natural pass catcher. I think he caught about four or five balls on third down including a one-handed catch in the end zone at our last scrimmage. He’s a very savvy route runner with a very good feel for the game. He’s basically our quarterback at the receiver position.”

Although Ferby has one year of eligibility left, it will be his last one taking the field with Fant out wide. Since the two arrived on the Hill in the fall of 2014, the Hilltoppers have gone 31-10, including 5-0 in conference championships and bowl games. During that span, WKU has finished no lower than sixth in the nation in scoring offense including finishing first last season.

In their last season together, the duo will look to continue the routine of helping the WKU offense put up big numbers while pursuing another conference championship and bowl win.

“It’s gone by so fast,” Ferby said. “It went by in a blink of an eye. It’s everything we dreamed of. It’s crazy because we came here as 18-year-olds, saying ‘We’re going to turn this school around.’ Now, you look at the billboards and you see conference championship banners and bowl wins.”

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-799-8247 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.