June 11, 2017

Alex Ross | The Long Road To BC

He is Coastal Carolina’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions and touchdowns. He earned a mini-camp tryout with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016; the same team he grew up idolizing as a kid in Georgia.

Most recently, he beat out Keith Price for the Lions’ third-string quarterback spot. But perhaps the best trait about rookie pivot Alex Ross is the fact he isn’t popping any champagne over anything he has accomplished just yet.

“I’m never satisfied. Honestly there are always things you can do better and there is always ways you can improve your game,” said Ross over lunch in Kamloops on Sunday.

“When watching film there is always things you pick up. I am starting to get more comfortable with Canadian football and where to go with the football based on what I see the defence playing.”

His first taste of pre-season action provided just a small glimpse of what the club now has behind Jonathon Jennings and Travis Lulay.

After throwing interception at the Stampeders’ goal line, Ross finished his night with nine completions for 144 yards and a late touchdown toss to RJ Harris, making things interesting before a 23-18 defeat. He carried that momentum into Saturday night’s live scrimmage in Kamloops and helped seal a 23-15 victory for Team Buono when he connected with Maurice Morgan on a late major.

And although the chances of him re-writing the record books with this organization appear slim, you can’t argue the fact Ross ensures the Lions have perhaps the best quarterback depth in the entire CFL.

“Some of these receivers I am really starting to trust and I am like to throw the ball to them,” explained Ross.

“I am still learning, but I am not there yet and still have a lot to improve on. Like the interception (in Calgary) that got tipped at the line of scrimmage; I probably should have gone the other way based on the play call and the look that I had. It’s just the small things I am continuing to improve on. Travis and Jon have helped me a tremendous amount. They have a lot of years under their belt and all I can do is learn from them.”

“I was happy for Ross that in the second part of his game he got better and made some plays,” said Wally Buono after the loss.

“The rebound was good, he showed he has the ability to execute under pressure, he used his legs like I thought he would and overall for his first run at the CFL I thought he did good.”

The saying “everything happens for a reason” is probably overused, but it likely applies when talking about Alex’s journey to British Columbia.

It all started after he helped Beaufort High School win three consecutive Georgia State High School championships. When some of his teammates were getting offers from powerhouses like Alabama, Georgia and USC, Ross was on his way to a camp at Wake Forest University when a sudden impulse decision changed his football road map entirely. Call it something we have all experienced at some point in our lives: mother’s intuition.

“My mom asked if we should stop at Coastal Carolina camp. I had no idea who they were, but I stopped. It was in a great location. I was the MVP of the one-day camp and I got offered a full-ride scholarship,” recalled Ross.

“It was a great place. We ran a fun offence and I had a lot of success. We had a good team that was constantly in the top tier of the FCS. That program is on the rise right now.”

Mothers have a tendency to always be correct, don’t they? And Nancy Ross was no different in this case. Following his stellar four years at the Conway, South Carolina campus Ross first caught the attention of Lions’ brass at their 2016 free agent camp Dallas. From there it was onto Atlanta Falcons’ mini-camp and only a change in the practice roster rules prevented him from potentially earning a spot; and ultimately pointing his compass roughly 2,800 Miles to the northwest.

“They gave players an extra year of eligibility on their practice squad. That gave their quarterback from the previous season another year and led to me getting cut,” explained Ross.

“They (the Lions) told me once I was done pursuing the NFL to give let them know if I wanted to give Canada a shot. I decided I didn’t want to sit out a year because I have a passion for the game. I could be playing anywhere because I just love the game of football. So I contacted (Lions’ Director of U.S. Scouting) Ryan Rigmaiden and let him know I was ready to give it a shot. That’s when they signed me.”

Football is football. It’s a mentality that truly helps you understand how committed some of these guys are when it comes to getting better at their craft. With the training camp practices winding down in Kamloops, Ross is looking forward to showing the home fans at BC Place what he is all about.

“I don’t know when my number is going to get called, but when it is I am plan on performing to the best of my abilities.”

Win, lose or draw you know he will be breaking it all down in the film room in hopes of getting better.

Matt Baker: