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Palm Coast Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2019 2 weeks ago

WNZF hires blind graduate as its next sports anchor

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Twenty-year-old Trent Ferguson has been blind since birth. But he doesn’t let his lack of sight stop him from dreaming big.
by: Ray Boone Sports Editor

Trent Ferguson has an undying passion for sports.

He loves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he’s a fan of the Florida State Seminoles’ football team and he just might be the biggest Tampa Bay Rays fan you will ever meet.

But he’s never seen a game before. He can’t.

Ferguson, now 20 years old, has been blind since birth.

He was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia, which is the under-development, or absence, of the optic nerve.

But he hasn’t, nor will he ever, let it stop him.

“I learned as a little kid that nobody is going to hand things to you. You have to go out and get it yourself. I haven’t waited for people to hand things to me because I knew it wasn’t going to happen.”

 

Trent Ferguson, WNZF's new sports anchor

Ferguson, who graduated from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine in 2017, was hired on June 1 as the morning sports anchor for WNZF Radio, replacing the now-retired David “Dr. Dave” West. Ferguson will also join the high school football play-by-play team as a color commentator.

“It’s surreal,” Ferguson said. “I expected to do big things, there’s no question about that. But I didn’t expect to be in this position only two years out of high school, and I couldn’t be more grateful. The Lord has really blessed me. I give all the glory to him. I have a huge support system.”

He discovered his love of radio when he was playing with his grandfather’s XM radio at the age of 4. He started calling into DJs when he was 7, requesting some of his favorite songs by Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys and The Beatles.

He met Tampa Bay Rays commentator Enrique Olu, who is also blind, in 2011. The meeting, which quickly fostered a friendship, inspired him. He soon began listening to Rays commentators David Wills and Andy Freed, and Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson.

“I’ve always been a radio geek,” he said, “my entire life.”

Ferguson doesn’t do things in a “traditional” way. He’s never been able to. Throughout his life, he’s solved problems. He’s adapted to his surroundings and figured out new ways to tackle the adversities he’s faced — like learning to cross a busy street by himself.

“I learned as a little kid that nobody is going to hand things to you,” he said. “You have to go out and get it yourself. I haven’t waited for people to hand things to me because I knew it wasn’t going to happen.”

Courtesy photo

Ferguson, a sophomore in high school at the time, met WNZF Vice President David Ayres at the ribbon cutting for Beach 105.5 in St. Augustine in 2014.

“It was unforgettable meeting a young blind kid who knew more about radio and sports than I did,” Ayres said. “His awareness of the world is more than impressive. I thought he was somebody who we needed to work with.”

Ayres had Ferguson record “no texting while driving” spots for Beach 105.5 in 2015. Then, he hosted a morning show with Beach 105.5’s John “J.T.” Thomas. He appeared on Ayres’ show, “Free For All Friday,” in May 2016. And he and WNZF’s Rich Caroll started “Outta Sight Sports,” a sports talk show that airs from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. every Saturday morning on WNZF 94.9 FM.

He covered his first football game, a contest between crosstown rivals Flagler Palm Coast and Matanzas, for WNZF in 2016.

He uses a Braille typing machine to jot down notes during the game. He uses a screen reader on his iPhone called VoiceOver (he also has a screen reader called JAWS on his laptop). He also keenly listens to the play-by-play announcer and the sounds of the game.

“You have to paint the picture for people who are listening on the radio because nobody can see it,” he said. “That’s an honor to me.”

Ferguson is looking forward to what’s to come in his new job, something he’s dreamed of doing for most of his life. He loves getting the chance to talk to Flagler County every day. He hopes he can reach his listeners and, hopefully, inspire them to overcome whatever obstacles they, too, face.

“There have been moments where it’s taken me longer to get something, but I’ve learned not to get frustrated,” he said. “Frustration is just wasted energy. It’s not productive. I’ve just learned to take my time.”

Ray Boone is the sports editor for the Palm Coast, Ormond Beach and Port Orange Observers. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2017 with a bachelor of science in journalism.

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