“Is that another circus catch by Ross? Wow! Humongous play by the freshman!”
Chris Fowler’s call of Justyn Ross’ emergence onto the college football scene in the 2018 National Championship game versus Alabama will live on in Clemson lore forever.
The Phenix City, Alabama native torched the Crimson Tide as a freshman en route to Clemson’s second national title in three years, and forever etched himself into some of the great wide receiver performances on college football’s grandest stage. The rising star was certainly no hidden secret kept by the Tigers, only to emerge at the right time.
Ross began his career as one of the most highly sought after receiver recruits in the country. As the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama for the 2018 recruiting class, Ross was heavily projected to be another elite member of the Crimson Tide’s receiver room — after all, every top player in the state had signed with Alabama every year since 2005, with only one exception (Can you imagine a receiving room with Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs, and Justyn Ross? Oh, and Trevon Diggs, who’s now leading the NFL in interceptions with the Cowboys). Ross shocked the state and the country, however, and elected to come to Clemson.
Immediately upon stepping foot onto campus, Ross became a star. He went viral for this one-handed catch in fall camp, which has over half-a-million views on Clemson Football’s tweet:
Ross would make an immediate impact, collecting 46 receptions and 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns. Ross was absolutely ridiculous in the 2018 National Championship game, finishing with six receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown, along with this circus catch that left Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, and the rest of America, quite baffled:
The Tigers dominated the Tide that night, and the tandem of Justyn Ross and Trevor Lawrence was poised to wreck college football for the next two seasons.
Ross shined again in 2019 as he and Tee Higgins combined to lead a stellar passing attack for the Clemson offense. Ross finished with 865 yards and eight touchdowns and was a key factor in wins over Texas A&M, Florida State, South Carolina, and Virginia. Ross’ performances helped lead Clemson to their sixth straight win over rival South Carolina, fifth straight ACC title, and fifth straight College Football Playoff appearance.
Ross would miss the entirety of the 2020 season following neck surgery in the spring of that year, and although the Tigers still won the ACC and made the College Football Playoff, his absence was certainly felt. With Ross sidelined and Higgins playing on Sundays, Clemson missed having its typical big-body outside receivers like Ross. Despite the injury, Ross was still an NFL draft prospect, but the junior decided to come back to Clemson and give it one more go in 2021.
The return of Ross was a lift for a Clemson offense in the midst of transitioning quarterbacks and receiving groups. Trevor Lawrence, Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell, and Travis Etienne all declared for the NFL Draft, leaving Ross as one of the only remaining pieces with major game experience.
Ross finished 2021 with 46 receptions for 514 yards and three touchdowns. The redshirt junior continued to battle injury the entire year though, and finally stepped away to have surgery on his foot after Clemson’s victory against UConn in November.
As expected, Ross declared for the NFL Draft via Instagram on January 6th. The receiver is expected to land somewhere between the second and fourth rounds if he is healthy and cleared by doctors.
Justyn Ross finishes his Clemson career with 158 receptions, 2,379 yards, and 20 touchdowns. Ross was the 16th player in school history to surpass 2,000 receiving yards and just the seventh player in school history to record 20 touchdown receptions.
Ross joins an illustrious line of Clemson receivers to enter the NFL. If drafted, Ross will be the 12th receiver taken from Clemson under Dabo Swinney. The folks here at Shakin’ the Southland appreciate Ross and commend him on his accomplishments at Clemson, as well as his amazing bounce back from neck surgery. We wish #8 the best and thank him for his time here at Clemson.