Stephen Ferris was born on 2 August 1985 and grew up in the small village of Maghaberry, near Lisburn. After excelling at the javelin, he settled on rugby and became the only player not from the traditional schools system to make it into the Ulster academy. Quickly established as the province's best prospect, he played for the Ireland Under-20s at the 2005 World Cup and made his senior Ulster debut in October of that year. Ferris went on to make more than 100 appearances for Ulster, winning the Celtic League in 2006, when he was named Ulster Player of the Year, and taking them to the final of the Heineken Cup in 2012 as they established themselves as one of the top teams in Europe. After making his Test debut in 2006, he won 35 caps for Ireland, winning the Grand Slam in 2009, when he also toured South Africa with the British & Irish Lions, and reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2011. He retired from playing in June 2014 after a long battle with injury.