Dec. 17, 2009
By Marc Daniels
When Rocky Ross plays his final football battle as a UCF Knight he will log his 54th game. Over his five seasons at UCF, the Jacksonville product has become one of the more reliable receivers in recent years.
Ross has seen his shares of ups and downs. "It's been full of great moments and some that challenged me," Ross said. "Last season when I was hurt was the toughest year to just sit and watch and not be able to help my team."
That injury at UTEP put Ross down for the rest of the season but it also allowed UCF to get a medical redshirt and bring him back for 2009.
"I didn't want my career to end like that. We had too much to play for this season," Ross said. "I wanted to come back and end my career on a positive note."
His career began back in 2005 when Ross was part of a receiving group that featured Brandon Marshall of the Denver Broncos and Mike Sims-Walker of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Giants tight end Darcy Johnson. Ross pulled down 17 receptions that season as UCF played in the school's first bowl game.
"Rocky got better and better as he learned how to play the position at the college level," head coach George O'Leary said. "He developed great hands and knew how to run routes."
His catches increased from 36 to 50 from his sophomore to junior season and Ross became the sure hands man. He was the receiver that often bailed out a quarterback when the blitz was coming. Ross has been the guy to go over the middle knowing a flying linebacker or safety was approaching quickly.
"It's part of the position. You know you are going to get hit," he said. "I just love competing and helping our team win."
And that is what motivated Ross to get healthy and come back for a fifth season in 2009. He believed UCF could have a good season.
Despite not winning the conference title, Ross and his teammates will try to win a ninth game and secure the school's first bowl win.
"I have been fortunate to be part of a lot of firsts at UCF," Ross said. "I played in the first conference championship game, the first bowl game, won the school's first conference title and now I want to get that first bowl win."
This season has not been bump-free. Ross suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss two games. But he is back and healthy for the bowl game and he brings in 153 career receptions.
He will be the most experienced receiver on the field, for both teams, come Saturday night. And since Ross has seen many firsts in his UCF, it would be only fitting if he is part of the team that wins that first bowl game.
Marc Daniels' From the Press Box runs several times per month on UCFAthletics.com. Listen to Marc during UCF football, men's basketball and baseball radio broadcasts on the UCF-ISP Sports Network. Each weekday, Marc hosts "The Beat of Sports" on ESPN 1080 in Orlando from 9-11 a.m.