For many NFL players, the preseason is the most important time of the year. This could be the only opportunity they have to make a team’s 53-man roster. This serves as motivation for every player fighting for a job.
Ross’ grandfather, Randolph Earl Ross served as a father figure for him growing up in Wilmington, N.C..
“He taught me how to tie knots and go fishing,” Ross said. “He basically taught me everything that a father would teach his son.”
Among those lessons was the importance of providing for one’s family and the value of hard work. The elder Ross was a brick mason, and the two worked together during the summers.
“Just by watching him I learned that you never get anything without hard work,” Ross said. “I’m just so appreciative that it went this way for me and I’m getting this opportunity now to make this team.”
Healthy and virile and in his early 70’s Ross succumbed to prostate cancer, which aggressively spread through his body. Ross’ grandfather passed away on Father’s Day this past June.
“He never got to see my play in an NFL game before he passed, that’s the one thing I wanted him to do, but never got the opportunity,” Ross said.
Where things for Ross are much more promising is on the football field where he’s looking to make the most of the opportunity he’s been given with Buffalo. Now in his third year in the league with his third different team, the East Carolina product said this is the best chance he has to make an NFL team.
“I’m just learning a lot from Kyle (Williams) and Marcell (Dareus) and watching those guys. I’m just working hard every day just trying to help this team,” he said.
“I think he’s always worked hard since he’s gotten here,” Williams said. “He’s really paid attention to the small intricacies of playing defensive tackle. You can see it as a player. He’s gotten a lot better over the year and a half he’s been here.”
Ross’ commitment seems to be paying off. Against the Vikings, Ross batted down two passes at the line of scrimmage. He also got on the field early in the loss to the Redskins Saturday logging three tackles as he’s been one of the primary reserves at defensive tackle behind Williams and Dareus.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has rotated Ross up with the ones during camp with the starters to go against Buffalo’s starting offensive line. Ross for the most part has held his own.
“Those guys put their pants on the same way I do. It’s all about technique at this level and who is going to have the most heart and finish at the end of the day,” Ross said. “I feel like I have a big heart. I never quit no matter what it is. That’s what I’ve always taken with me.”
Ross is working on improving his footwork and using his hands to help better not only himself, but the team. He said he’s trying to be as consistent as possible to help them reach the playoffs.
Head Coach Doug Marrone complimented his effort during both practice and games. Marrone believes he fits the goal of the defense.
“First of all he’s 110 percent all the time. I think you have an appreciation for that. He’s wired that way,” Marrone said. “When you talk about a multiple defense that you’re trying to look at your players and say, ‘I think this guy can really do this well.’ When you’re multiple you can find those type of spots for him because now you’re playing to the strength of your players and you’re not trying to play to the strength of your scheme.”
If Ross makes the team, he already knows what he’ll do first.
“I’ll probably call my family and be excited,” he said.
When he does call home, he’ll have someone new to talk to. Ross was excused from practice during training camp so he could be with his wife who was having a baby.
Welcome to this world Mya Marie Ross i love you baby girl pic.twitter.com/xqgr6kboQR— Jay Ross (@PortCityMade) August 21, 2013
The couple celebrated the birth of a daughter, but Ross' time at home was short-lived as he rejoined the team in time to play against the Redskins with some new inspiration posting three tackles.
And as proud as the new dad might be to play for his new family, it’s the values of Ross’ grandfather that has put him in the best position possible to make a 53-man NFL roster.
Randolph Ross may not be able to make it to any games, but Ross knows that he’s looking down from the best seat available.
“I’m just happy that he’s with God now,” said Ross. “I know he’s in my heart now and I just want him to be happy.”