The day before Penn State took on Wisconsin in the season finale, signal callers Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson were in a meeting with then-quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher.
That's when Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien called Ferguson into his office.
O'Brien wanted to know what the backup quarterback's future plans were — what he was thinking about doing when the Lions came back from Madison, Wis. and the 2013 season was over.
The coach had an idea of what was best for Ferguson, who transferred to Penn State last spring from a California junior college.
"He just said, in all due respect and not saying this in a bad way, he said, 'I think you should go somewhere and play,' " Ferguson said in a phone interview. "I think you're good enough to play somewhere, and we're secure here with Christian being a freshman. And that was good to hear. I was glad that he was straightforward with me."
The quarterback said O'Brien made it clear he'd have a spot for the West Coast native on the team next year. But if Ferguson wanted to transfer elsewhere, O'Brien would back him 100 percent.
Ferguson decided on the latter as reports were confirmed Wednesday by a Penn State spokesman that the quarterback was granted his release papers.
Ferguson said he understood the future under center at Penn State was Hackenberg. The former Lion even recalls a conversation he had with his dad with two weeks left in the season about Ferguson's future.
"[My dad] was saying how good [Hackenberg] is, and just thinking it'd be best to move on somewhere else and get an opportunity to play," Ferguson said. "Because as a competitor and a player, you ask anyone, they'd give anything to start and to play."
Ferguson did play in limited portions for the Lions, completing 10-of-15 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown in four appearances.
He arrived in Happy Valley from the College of Sequoias last spring and competed with Hackenberg throughout fall practice for the starting job.
Hackenberg earned the season-opening start against Syracuse, kept the job from there and went on to win Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
And even though the position battle didn't go his way, Ferguson, who was committed to Houston before switching to the Lions, doesn't regret his decision to come to Penn State.
"I really don't think a lot of schools in the country could have offered me what I learned here," Ferguson said. "People have been asking me a lot recently, 'Would you go back to signing day and stay with your commitment to Houston, or go somewhere else?' And honestly, no I wouldn't. I would come back in a heartbeat."
Ferguson said he's sent out his release papers to about 50 schools across the country, and while he hasn't heard back from too many people, the quarterback is just staying patient.
The Bakersfield, Calif. native said playing on the West Coast would be "an awesome luxury to have," but that he's primarily hoping to join a program that's near the top of its conference and offers him a chance to compete for the starting job.
"That's the only thing you can ask for. I'm not looking for a promise here or a promise there. I just want to come in and compete, and the best player will play," Ferguson said.
Ferguson will have to sit out a year if he goes to another FBS program, but because he hasn't used his redshirt, the signal caller will have two years of eligibility wherever he lands.
Not only does Ferguson have the backing of O'Brien, but the quarterback has also received full support from his teammates and friends.
Ferguson said he appreciated the support and will stay in contact with those people, especially Hackenberg.
"After I sit out a year, we'll be talking about who threw for more yards and things like that," Ferguson said with a laugh. "I've made some really good friends here, and everyone understood my decision."
John McGonigal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828.
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