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Ross hopes to be more than a returner
June 27, 2017 03:00 PM | Chris Brown

Buffalo re-signed a proven returner in Brandon Tate this offseason. They added one in free agent safety Micah Hyde. They added another return candidate in first-round pick Tre'Davious White, and now they have a fourth in free agent signee Rashad Ross. In a crowded return pool, Ross knows he has to offer something else to make the Bills 53-man roster. That's why he's thankful for the time he spent with Pro Bowl WR DeSean Jackson.

Ross idolized DeSean Jackson when he was turning in big plays on a weekly basis at Cal. Ross, still in high school, in his native California, never missed a game.

"Coming out of high school I always wanted to go to Cal because of DeSean Jackson and Jahvid Best because Jahvid was from Vallejo, where I'm from," said Ross. "But I always looked up to DeSean."

Fast forward six years and Ross is trying to carve out an NFL career after going undrafted out of Arizona State. He signed with Washington in the spring of 2014 after being released by Tennessee and Kansas City his rookie year.

Ross didn't make the roster as he was released in the roster cut down to 75. But that fall he was signed to Washington's practice squad and he re-signed with the club the following January. That spring (2015) all the players in the receivers room are asked to introduce themselves.

"I had never said anything to him, but one day in a meeting they asked me where I was from and I said I was from California. So right then and there, DeSean said, 'Oh we've got another Cali boy!' Because we were all the way on the east coast. He just took me under his wing after that. He told me I didn't have to stay in the hotel and that I could stay with him. He had just signed with Washington the year before and was still living by himself. So I started staying with him and tried to pick up his habits on the field and off the field."

Watching Ross work on the field it was clear to Jackson that he had blazing speed just like him. The problem was Ross' top speed was so fast that it compromised his ability to get in and out of his breaks on routes.

Jackson decided then to make Ross his personal project when the team went on break after mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

"He told me, 'You've got talent, but if you want to really make this team you've got to come work out with me,'" Ross recalled. "I'm not going to say no to that, so I went to L.A. and worked out with him and then I realized why he's so good.

"He's automatically gifted, but he has four different trainers. He's got a track trainer. He has a weight room trainer and a field trainer and somebody to work with him on his routes and catch balls. I started working with all of them and it really just upped my game."

The key was Ross learned how to use his top end speed to his advantage.

"It was all about knowing what gear to hit when I run routes," Ross told Buffalobills.com. "You can't go at top speed on every route. I was just trying to show my speed on every route trying to make the team, but if you do that it's hard to drop your weight or get in and out of breaks.

"So his route trainer would tell me you don't have to go at top speed on every route because you're already fast. Your 90 percent can beat most guys' 100 percent. So they taught me how to run routes with the different gears I had and how to switch them to set defenders up."

Ross wound up making the Washington roster that fall and though he primarily served the team as a return man, he did see some spot duty on offense. He was used primarily as a deep threat making eight catches for 184 yards (24.4 avg.) with a 71-yard touchdown to his credit.

Last season his opportunities were more limited as draft choices like Jamison Crowder were moved ahead of him on the depth chart right behind Pierre Garcon and Jackson.

But Ross feels those skills he acquired will help him in proving he can do more than return kicks or punts in Buffalo.





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