John Ross will hear his name called in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft on Thursday in Philadelphia. The fastest player in NFL Combine history hails from Washington, where he was one of the best receivers in the Pac-12.
Now, he’ll be playing at the highest level in the world. But it took a lot to get Ross there, even when it felt like he may not play football at all. This is his story.
The first time he touched the ball in high school, it was a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD
When Ross was just 14 years old, he was set to return the opening kickoff in his first football game. He asked his coach what to do when he got the ball. His coach simply said, “Run, and do not let anybody tackle you!”
The other guy returning asked the coach what to do if they kicked it to him, to which the coach responded, “Give it to [Ross].”
Ross ended up taking the kickoff back 100 yards, and it was the start to what has been a remarkable career on the gridiron.
Ross almost quit football in high school
Ross felt like everybody wanted football for him more than he wanted it for himself. He wanted to just pick up his grades and find something else for his future.
His coach called his grandmother to explain what was going on. She told Ross that he wasn’t going to quit. She said, “I kept you out of trouble all these years. Football is for you.”
His grandmother told him, “Every game you gonna be at, I’ll be there with you. Don’t forget I’m your No. 1 fan. I told him that from day one.” Since then, Ross has thrived.
He suffered a devastating ACL injury in 2015
Ross’ ACL tear was a freak accident in spring practice during his sophomore season. Somebody was in his way, and he jumped out of the way to avoid contact.
He heard the pop, but was able to get up on his own and walk without any assistance. When he went to sleep that night, he woke up with his leg stuck at a 90 degree angle, and knew something wasn’t right.
The injury was the first time he had to go a year without football, which was a tough pill for Ross to swallow. But Ross said it was the best thing to ever happen to him because he was able to grow from it.
Ross’ record 40-yard dash was expected, but still stunning
Speed was what got Ross into playing football, which goes for a lot of people. But his speed was another beast. The 40-yard dash record was thought to be so unbreakable, that Adidas offered the player who broke it their own island.
Ross didn’t get the island, but he got the record.
His cousin told his girlfriend as they were watching that Ross was going to break the record. The speed was so fast that his grandmother said she almost had a heart attack. She knew the record was coming, though.
Now, he’s Mr. 4.22, and soon to be playing on Sundays for one lucky NFL franchise.