Bengals rookie John Ross explains why community, giving back matter so much to him
One of the problems with modern media is a focus on the negative: controversial stories draw clicks and generate headlines. We don’t spend enough time talking about the good things that NFL players do, so let’s try it right now by talking about Bengals rookie wide receiver John Ross, who spent his bye week giving back to his community.
Ross, who sat down with CBS Sports’ Jon Beason, has yet to make a massive impact on the field for Cincy, largely due to an injury he suffered in the preseason and the tough transition of a rookie wide receiver to the NFL.
But the fastest man in football —— is making moves off the field already, having gone back to his high school to help establish an after school program for the young people in his community.
“We had a bye week and I just went to my high school and I talked to my principal about starting up a community like Boys & Girls Club,” Ross explained. “Because when I was growing up we didn’t have that, we were outside, kicking rocks around, picking up sticks and acting like we had baseball. We didn’t have a team that close — you can start something right there. A lot of guys I grew up with, get some experience to coach kids. No matter who you are, how much money you’ve got, what you can do — it don’t hurt to give back. So I want to continue giving back.”
That’s a pretty important message for anyone: getting rich does not mean you can’t keep finding ways to give back to those less fortunate. It helps that Ross has mentors who are pointing him in the right direction.
Although the guys he’s hearing from might surprise you. Alright, A.J. Green, his fellow Bengals wideout, isn’t surprising. Green has kept Ross’ head on his shoulders early in his career.
“Really just keeping my head on my shoulders. He’s just telling me all the time, don’t fall into overthinking it,” Ross said. “Because especially being young you want to go out there and prove a lot. And AJ’s telling me to calm down and just let it come to you. Everything’s going to happen — things are going to happen for a reason.”
The other guy who has previously mentored him? Snoop Dogg! Snoop, who has morphed from “rapper” into “figure of large cultural import,” was one of Ross’ coaches early on in his career.
“Snoop was really like a mentor to all of us, really. It was more of how well he coached us, how well he got along with everyone in the community,” Ross said. “So that was big for us to know that he was so famous, but that didn’t matter to him. What mattered to him was coaching, really. Every practice he was there coaching us like a coach should.”
Again: good lessons there, learned from Snoop Dogg about being famous and still managing to give back and be a part of the community in a positive way.
Maybe the most interesting thing to hear Ross say didn’t involve direct leadership, but it speaks to a lesson he’s learned and the type of guy he is — he told Beason he has no interest in individual awards, instead focusing on team championships, like the PAC-12 title he won at Washington. According to Ross, that mattered more than anything in his life.
“I don’t want to be one dimensional. Before I won my PAC-12 championship, I was like, I’ve never won anything before in my life,” Ross explained. “So I want this more than anything. I could care less about the Heisman Trophy. My whole four years there, we didn’t get that far, so it was big for me. I want to be known for how many great teams I was a part of.”
We are very quick to judge young players on their production in the NFL. Three receivers — Ross, Corey Davis and Mike Williams — were taken in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft, and we have not seen a ton of production from them. But let’s not forget Odell Beckham was absent for the first half of the season when he played for the Giants in his rookie season. It is early and it is clear that Ross has the determination and mental approach to succeed. We know he has the physical tools — as he keeps learning these life lessons on the job, it will set him up for future success.
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