SAN JOSE, Calif. — Wide receiver Justyn Ross remembers receiving an offer from Alabama as a sophomore in high school. He considered the Crimson Tide all the way up until the morning of National Signing Day two years later. He had a hard decision to make.
Ultimately, Ross chose Clemson — aka the team Alabama will face Monday in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship game at Levi’s Stadium.
“I had to realize the coaching stability that Clemson has had over the years,” Ross said Saturday at Clemson’s Media Day in the SAP Center. “That kind of just narrowed it down for me.”
Even though he grew up a Florida Gators fan, Ross is originally from Phenix City, Alabama. In fact, according to 247 Sports, Ross was the No. 1 recruit in Alabama. He was nationally ranked as the No. 7 wide receiver and No. 45 prospect overall.
Ross was the first top-ranked player from Alabama to sign with the Tigers and just the second to not sign with the Crimson Tide since 2005.
“We thought he was one of the best players in Alabama a year ago and certainly recruited him with as much enthusiasm as possible,” UA coach Nick Saban said Monday on the CFP teleconference. “We just came up short. It’s no surprise to me that he’s having an outstanding year, and we’d love to have him here, but we’ve got to prepare to play against him.”
As a true freshman, Ross has played in all 14 of the Tigers’ games. He has caught 40 passes for 847 yards and eight touchdowns. He averages 21.2 yards per reception and 60.5 yards per game.
To put those numbers in perspective, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle – same year, same position – has 43 grabs for 823 yards and seven scores in just as many games. He’s averaging 19.14 yards per reception and 58.8 yards per game.
UA linebacker Markail Benton was a teammate of Ross at Central High School.
Regardless of all the history, Monday’s opponent doesn’t matter to Ross.
“People would think it’s extra motivation just because it’s where I’m from,” Ross said. “But it’s not really. It’s just a regular game to me now.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.