MOBILE, Ala – Jaylon Ferguson's favorite NFL player, and the player he likes to tailor his game after, is Chicago Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack.
Ferguson and Mack have at least one thing in common, they both come from small schools -- Ferguson from Louisiana Tech and Mack from Buffalo.
In a class loaded with pass rushers from large schools like Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama and Michigan, Ferguson is hoping to make a big impression this week against some of the big-school talent here at the Senior Bowl, and show that the small school guys can play big as well.
"There's a lot of big-time rushers and big pass rushers from bigger schools, but at the same time I feel like I had the same or even better production against the same competition, but I don't get recognized for it as much as I should," Ferguson said. "I'm using this week to prove I can go up against the better competition and dominate."
Ferguson (6-4, 256) set the NCAA record for most career sacks this past season with 45.0 after recording 17.5 this past season with 26.0 tackles for loss. He broke Terrell Suggs' record of 44.0.
Some of the things that make Mack one of the game's best are his power and ability to bend off the edge. Those are the things Ferguson hopes to show during this week's Senior Bowl practices.
The Lions ranked 11th in the NFL this past season with 43 team sacks, but their highest individual total was 7.5 from Romeo Okwara. They could be on the lookout for help along the edge.
"I think we need more playmakers on both sides of the ball," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said after the season.
Another pass rusher here in Mobile trying to go from small school player to early-round draft pick is Old Dominion's Oshane Ximines. Like Ferguson, he hopes to use this week as an opportunity to show NFL personnel departments and coaches he can be just as productive against higher competition.
"It's an awesome opportunity," Ximines said of this week's Senior Bowl. "The best opportunity I could ever open for myself. I'm just glad they picked me. I'm glad I'm able to showcase my talent here. I don't pay attention to the other people. I just know what kind of talent I am and I know what I have to do and when I get out there on the practice field and in the game, I'm going to show everyone what they're getting when they pick me."
Ximines (6-3, 241) recorded 11.5 sacks and 18.0 tackles for loss playing mostly in Conference USA last season.
Both Ferguson and Ximines are considered among the top 10 pass rushers available in this draft, but there are a number of underclassman ahead of them.
This week at the Senior Bowl there are no small school or big school players. There's just the North Team and South Team. Everyone is on equal footing trying to make a good impression. For players like Ferguson and Ximines, this is a big week in that regard.