Nov. 24, 2009
ORLANDO, Fla. -
By Leigh Torbin
UCF senior wide receiver Rocky Ross (Jacksonville, Fla.) received one of the top awards a true student-athlete can receive on Tuesday as he was named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America squad as selected by CoSIDA, the College Sports Information Directors of America.
Ross, a team captain and a second-team Academic All-American pick today, is second on UCF with 31 catches this year for 371 yards and three touchdowns. He caught one of UCF's most crucial touchdowns of the season as he nabbed the game-winning score with 0:23 left to play in an ESPN primetime 21-20 win over Marshall at Bright House Networks Stadium. He also caught UCF's lone touchdown against No. 9 Miami. Ross also returned punts for the first time in his career at the start of the year, gaining 99 yards on eight returns for a solid 12.4-yard average. His 147 career catches rank ninth in school history and his 1,894 career receiving yards leaves him just 14 yards shy of cracking UCF's career top 10 chart.
He has helped lead the Knights to a 7-4 record (5-2 C-USA) and the cusp of a bowl game heading into this Saturday's season finale at UAB.
Ross, who would like to become a high school athletics director if a professional football career doesn't pan out, is working towards a master's degree in sports and fitness after earning his bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He maintains a cumulative grade point average of 3.88.
Ross and teammate Jordan Richards (Cary, N.C.) both became eligible for national recognition after earning a spot on the All-District III (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia) team three weeks ago. Ross is the second Knight to ever advance onto Academic All-America honors, joining Keith Shologan (2007).
To be eligible for consideration , the student-athlete must be at least a sophomore, a starter or key reserve on their team and have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.3.
The first-team Academic All-America selections at wide receiver were Zeke Markshausen of Northwestern (3.46 GPA, 79 rec., 774 yards, 3 TDs) and Blair White of Michigan State (3.89-64-876-8) Joining Ross on the second team is Stanford's Ryan Whalen (3.43-48-786-3).
"This means a lot to me," Ross said. "Anytime you talk about all of America, it's rewarding both for the school and as an individual. If you really want to make good grades and put a lot of effort into that, good things can come. I'm happy that they selected me. It's a great honor, especially to be on just a two-person all-time list with someone like Keith (Shologan). (Academic Services for Student-Athletes Associate Director) Kristy Belden and her staff help you out with everything from classes to tutors. It's up to the student to take advantage of that."
Under head coach George O'Leary, the Knights have been no stranger to academic success. Not only have Ross and Shologan become the school's first two ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans in football, but the whole team has excelled. The team boasted a combined cumulative GPA of 2.990 at the conclusion of the summer semester. Ross is one of seven Knights who have all ready earned a bachelor's degree, a sum which ties UCF for 10th nationally. A total of 69 Knights are wearing special "Scholar-Baller" decals on the back of their helmets this year, emblematic of earning a 3.0 semester GPA during the 2008-09 academic year. That national program was started by UCF professor Dr. Keith Harrison.
The great grades come on the heels of the most recent Academic Progress Rate (APR) announcement by the NCAA which saw the football team earn a mark of 960. That score tied LSU for 23rd in the nation. It also ranked ninth nationally amongst non-military public universities.
For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.