Senior defensive back leaves legacy of speed, perseverance


Defensive back Joel Ross at the football game against Liberty University. Photo by Paul Heckert | The Appalachian

Cory Spiers

With 39 total tackles and three interceptions – good for second best on the team – senior defensive back Joel Ross made the most of every opportunity he had at the college level and during his final season at App State.

“They say it goes by fast, your senior year, but honestly, I’m just trying to enjoy every moment of it,” Ross said before the season’s end. “Every game, I’m just trying to soak everything in.”

Ross, who saw many highs and lows during his 30 career starts for the Mountaineers, said the game atmosphere is what he will miss the most.

“I love the crowd noise, how energized it is, how everybody’s interactive with each other,” Ross said. “That brings the best out of me.”

As a teammate, Ross brought the best out of those around him in order to make his final campaign a successful one.

“He’s just been a playmaker,” said junior defensive back Doug Middleton, who led the team with four interceptions. “He sets the tone every day. He comes out here and practices hard and the guys follow him.”

Ross also rubbed off on his coaches, especially cornerbacks coach Bryan Brown, who said without Ross, the secondary won’t quite be the same.

“He’s a different cat,” Brown said. “He’s very unique in his own self, but he’s an outstanding player. I love coaching him each and every day. His personality is outstanding. I love him and I’m gonna miss him.”

The journey for Ross wasn’t easy, though. Ross said that it took him a good portion of his four years at App State to become the person his teammates and coaches describe him as today.

“Freshman year, I didn’t adjust well to college,” Ross said. “I kind of felt homesick and I didn’t really want to go to class. But school brought the maturity out of me. It really expanded my knowledge on everything – about society, about life, about everything like that. That just made me grow as a person.”

With App State finishing the season 7-5 after a 45-28 win against Idaho on senior day Nov. 29, Ross said he hopes that his teammates will remember what he always preaches: play fast.

“Play 110 miles per hour,” Ross said. “That’s what I try to emphasize with myself, and I try to feed off of these guys and play fast to the ball. When everybody swarms to the ball, anything can happen.”

Ross is hoping to play at the professional level if he gets the opportunity and Brown said he believes that Ross has a good chance.

“A lot of scouts have come to me and talked to me about him,” Brown said. “He could have a shot at the next level. He can run well. And that’s what those guys want. They want guys that can run and can cover, and he can do that. He’s physical as well.”

While Ross may have a future in professional football, he is also prepared to fall back on his college education in law enforcement.

“It’s something that’s been instilled in me since I was a little kid running around and playing cops and robbers,” Ross said.

What started off as a children’s game has turned into a real passion for Ross.

“As soon as I get a K-9 job, I’ll be the happiest man in the world,” Ross said.

Whether it is running after criminals or opposing wide receivers, Ross loves the chase more than anything else.

“That’s all I want to do is chase people,” Ross said. “I guess it comes natural.”

Story: Colin Tate, Intern Sports Reporter