How quickly one can go from being considered a great to being something else entirely.
Former Clemson receiver Justyn Ross proved that this weekend when he went undrafted, something that seemed laughable just two short years ago.
During his four-year career, Ross caught 158 passes for 2,379 yards with 20 touchdowns over 39 career games, 24 of which were starts. He leaves Clemson ranked tied for fifth in program history in career receiving touchdowns, 10th in career receiving yards and 11th in career receptions. He caught at least one pass in 37 straight games, which currently ties for the third-longest streak in Clemson history.
The former 5-star prospect burst onto the college football scene during the 2018 season. A season that ended with Clemson winning the national championship and making Alabama look really mediocre in the process. And Ross was a huge part of that 44-16 thumping.
He actually had two unforgettable performances in the 2018 College Football Playoff, helping Clemson end the season with a perfect 15-0 record. Ross had12 catches for 301 yards and three touchdowns, in blowout wins over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and then the Crimson Tide in the title game.
In 2019, Ross kept up that pace, reeling in a team-high 66 catches for 865 yards and nine touchdowns, earning All-ACC honorable mention honors.
That’s when things started to go wrong, horribly wrong. It was discovered that he had a congenital condition in his spine during the spring of 2020, something would require a risky surgery to repair. Not only did he miss his entire junior season, but there were questions about whether he’d ever play again.
Ross put in the work and returned for his senior season, leading Clemson in catches (46) and receiving yards (514). However, it was still obvious that he just did not have that explosiveness that most expected. What many didn’t realize was Ross was playing on a foot with a small stress fracture.
The bone would eventually break completely, forcing him to miss the final three games and hampering him during his Pro Day workout. Ross posted an unimpressive 4.67 in the 40 and another unimpressive 31.5 in the vertical.
“There is a whole lot more of what I got,” Ross said following Pro Day last month.
“I am a big guy. I am winner. I have been a winner my whole career at Clemson. I can move around. I can line up and play every (receiver) position on the field.”
Suddenly, the wideout who many considered a first-round lock not so long ago, never had his dream realized of hearing his name called during the draft. At all. Not in round one, not even in round seven. He hasn’t even signed a free agent deal as of yet.
This does not mean that his dream of playing in the league is over. Some team could still sign him but things surely do not look good at this point. This is so not how things were supposed to end for the talented wide receiver from Phenix City.
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