<
>

John Ross making the most of his return to Huskies this spring

As spring ball began to creep up on the Washington Huskies, wide receiver John Ross, who sat out most of last spring and all of last season with a left knee injury, found himself looking forward to something he never thought he would during his college playing career -- stretching.

“Honestly,” Ross said. “Just being able to stretch in the same stretch lines as everyone with equipment on.”

For the past year Ross has had to take it slow, and that included stretching. And his body took longer to warm up, too, since it wasn’t used to his new kind of activity. But when spring ball rolled around he was able to stretch again -- his first taste of normalcy since last spring.

It was quite a difference for the player who many assumed would be quarterback Jake Browning’s go-to receiver during Browning’s freshman season. From Ross’ freshman to sophomore years he had flashed speed and explosiveness in the open field, improving his yards per catch totals from 13 per catch in 2013 to 22 per catch in 2014. As a sophomore in 2014 he also dabbled on defense, tallying 16 tackles, two passes defended and one interception, giving even more evidence to his versatility.

But instead, Ross spent last season coaching up the other young wide receivers who would become Browning’s targets -- Dante Pettis and Brayden Lenius.

“Just stay calm,” Ross told them. “Sometimes they get in their heads and they kind of see that everything is new so they think everything is hard. I just told them to be calm ... Sometimes guys get up here and they think they need to do more than what they know how to do and sometimes that kind of messes them up.”

He found himself giving them the same advice he knew he’d need to take when he finally returned -- just be calm, don’t overthink it.

Ross said that his injury last spring stemmed from him overthinking his previous knee injury, that while he was midair he thought to himself that he wanted to make sure he didn’t land funny on his right leg, pushing him to land funny on his left leg, and ultimately ending his 2016 season.

So now that he’s back for the spring and garnering the respect and praise from teammates and coaches, he’s taking his own advice.

“Just because I’m back doesn’t mean I can expect to beat every guy off the ball or be quick to every zone,” Ross said. “I’m going to have to slow down to get open.”

But lucky for Ross, he no longer needs to slow down to warm up and stretch.