Four years ago, on National Signing Day in February 2018, Justyn Ross shocked plenty of people in his home state when he committed to Clemson over Alabama and Auburn.
The Phenix City, Ala., native and former five-star prospect from Central High School reflected on his recruiting process this week during an interview with Pro Football Focus’s Austin Gayle and Mike Renner on Tailgate: An NFL, Draft & College Football Podcast.
Although he ultimately decided to join Dabo Swinney and the Tigers, Ross admitted that he felt pressure during his recruitment to stay home and play for one of the in-state schools.
“It was a little shaky, for real, just because of being an in-home guy,” Ross said of the recruiting process. “Clemson was in my top three schools – Alabama, Auburn and Clemson. So, with Clemson being the only out of state (school), it was a little shaky just with the pressure from the in-state schools.”
Ross saw his decision to sign with Clemson pay off right away as a true freshman in 2018, when he had a stellar season while playing a huge role in helping the Tigers win the national title against one of the in-state schools he spurned — Alabama.
The star wide receiver posted game highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (153) and caught a 74-yard touchdown in the national championship game, and finished his freshman season with 46 receptions for a team-high 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns over 15 games.
“I feel like coming in, I had to prove a point, just because I was leaving the state,” Ross said when asked about his early success at Clemson. “Everybody had doubted me, for real. Everybody wanted me to go to Bama and everything like that. So, I feel like I had to prove a point. So, I was working, trying to just basically get my name out there. Because everybody knew me from high school… So, I was trying to keep it going. It’s easy to build up a name, but it’s hard to keep it going.”
Ross certainly made a name for himself at Clemson, concluding his collegiate career (2018-21) ranked tied for fifth in school history in career receiving touchdowns (20), 10th in career receiving yards (2,379) and 11th in career receptions (158).
There’s one area in particular where Ross really feels his game improved over the course of his time as a Tiger.
“I feel like I just developed more mentally, just learning how to read defenses and stuff like that,” he said. “Because I feel like a dude like me, with a big frame like this, with all the tools – all you’ve got to do is be a smart player. So, I feel like I learned the game more mentally.”
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