Washington Huskies

Healthy again, John Ross III optimistic about a breakthrough for UW offense

John Ross III (1) returns a punt at the preview on Saturday, April 23. Ross also caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jake Browning.
John Ross III (1) returns a punt at the preview on Saturday, April 23. Ross also caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jake Browning. phaley@thenewstribune.com

When he learned he would need another knee surgery — one that would keep him out for the 2015 season — John Ross III said he was dejected only momentarily.

“I was down, honestly, for like five minutes,” Washington’s junior wide receiver said.

He recalled driving near campus in April 2015 shortly after learning the results of an MRI exam, which had revealed a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee. He had surgery on April 18, 2015, a few months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

“I pulled over to the (side of) the road, and I was just smiling, like, ‘Wow, this is about to be an amazing journey,’ “ he said. “My grandmother always tells me, ‘God makes no mistakes.’ So I just took that to mind. ... I just took it as a blessing in disguise, and look where we are now.”

Healthy once again, Ross caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jake Browning in Saturday’s spring finale at Husky Stadium, concluding an important and productive month for him and the Huskies’ young offense.

“I feel amazing,” Ross said Saturday.

He made an ahead-of-schedule recovery, for which credited the support of former teammate Deontae Cooper — who came back from three ACL injuries — and UW’s trainers and strength coaches. He was also determined to have a positive outlook throughout the process.

He was feeling so good late last summer that he held out hope that he could play at some point last season. Trainers had to tell him to slow down.

“I was way ahead of schedule,” he said. “But they kept telling me, ‘Don’t get too far, because we won’t let you do anything.’ And I really appreciate that, because in my mind I was ready to play, but they knew I wasn’t.”

He’s ready now.

In 2014, Ross played through the torn meniscus in his right knee and managed to score seven touchdowns that season, on plays of 91, 20, 55, 75, 86, 100 and 96 yards (including two kickoff returns).

Having arrived at UW in 2013 at 170 pounds, he’s up to 195 — and tested even faster during winter conditioning in early March. He clocked a 4.25-second 40-yard dash — hand timed — and said he has worked hard to build chemistry with Browning.

“Before the play he’ll just give me that look like, ‘You know you’re about to score here, right?’ “ Ross said. “And it’s good to see how much he’s matured.”

Ross hasn’t reined in his optimism, which spreads over to the rest of the offense. He points to Browning, running back Myles Gaskin and developing receivers such as Dante Pettis, Chico McClatcher and Andre Baccellia as reasons.

“We were so young last year,” he said. “Jake was still learning ... and we had a young offensive line. They’re getting better. Myles — Myles is Myles. I watch him in practice, and I’m still amazed. Dante’s doing a great job. Chico’s stepped up. We got lot of guys doing some things. Andre Baccellia, he’s going to be amazing. He’s going to open a lot of eyes.

“With this young team, we’re still growing. This spring I think we did a good job, and it’s going to continue to get better from here.”

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