The Wolverine

November 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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22 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2021 BY JOHN BORTON J osh Ross learned at a very early age the meaning of competition. When a big brother possesses the athletic talent to play Michigan football, it immediately sets the bar high. Ross began leaping the bar as a kin- dergartener. He's never stopped, as a two-time Michigan captain and one of the best linebackers around. Former Michigan linebacker, graduate assistant coach and now Hope College linebackers coach James Ross — five- and-a-half years Josh's elder — be- gan playing hockey at age 7. Josh first donned the skates in competition at age 5. Josh beat James to the football field as well, in terms of starting age. Both Ross brothers played Little League foot- ball for Detroit's famed Westside Cubs, which produced the likes of Michigan and NFL linebacker Larry Foote. But James lingered an extra year with the Cubs as a ninth-grader, enjoying the youth league. Josh went his own way. "He decided he wanted to play var- sity football," James Ross recalled. "The thing about him is, he has one of those late birthdays. He started in high school at 13 years old. He should have been in eighth grade when he was in ninth grade. He was always a year ahead. "He wanted to do it. He wants to up me, every opportunity he gets." There's no hint of jealousy from big brother. Only excitement, admiration and love for everything Josh continues achieving. Josh insists the relationship couldn't be better. "I love my brother, man," Josh as- sured. "He's had my back my whole life, and I'm so blessed and fortunate to have an older brother like him. We're super close. We're best friends at this point." That doesn't close down the compe- tition — in any way. "In my high school career [at Orchard Lake St. Mary's], I went to the state championship three times — lost two, won one," James noted. "He went three times and won three. "Everything he's done, he's looked at me like the benchmark, and he's tried to overshoot it. He's surpassed it greatly in every opportunity he's able to." The Ross brothers don't just play around at football. Josh learned that lesson as well at a tender age, and it stuck forever. A decade ago, 100-degree heat forced the cancellation of a Little League prac- tice. Josh thought that signaled a day wide open for video game play. James harbored other ideas. "He took me that day, and once we got to the field, we found out practice was canceled," Josh recalled. "He told me, 'I know practice was canceled, I know it's hot, but let's get some work done. It won't be a lot, but let's do something that's going to get you better.' "I kind of looked at him with that side eye, like 'I don't know about that one.' I didn't really want to do that. He re- peated it: 'Let's get some work in. Let's do some work.' I was like, 'Ahhhhhh!'" Big brother delivered the warning, and followed through when his younger sibling chose to beat the heat. "He said, 'Dude, if you don't do work right now, I will never talk to you again,'" Josh said. "I'm thinking, man, he's not serious. We ended up doing no work. "That dude didn't talk to me for a whole month straight. He ignored ev- erything I said for a month straight. I realized, after that moment, I'm just going to listen to everything this dude is saying. I feel horrible. "That story is a testament to how much he cared for me, how much he wanted to see me succeed. He still wants me to succeed, do well, do big things. The tactic of ignoring me was maybe a little harsh, but at the end of the day, he just wanted the best for me." James remembers well the silent month. He also admits the strategy might have bordered on the draconian, but also believes in the lesson learned. "That was the moment he realized that in this game, it takes a lot to be good," James said. "I didn't know what I was doing at the time, but it stuck with him to this day. Because of that, he lis- tens to what I have to tell him, and he takes it seriously. I was just frustrated, because I viewed it as an opportunity for us to practice. Him being the kid that he was, he looked at it like any other kid would — as a day off. "It was just establishing that mind- set, early on, of always wanting to get an upper hand on your opponents and al- ways working. There's never really a day off. From that day on, he's established that type of mentality and that mindset. "You can tell. Right now, he's taken his game to another level, because of how hard he's worked, every single day, every opportunity he had." A QUICKER STEP FORWARD T h e a t t i t u d e co n t i n u e s to transform the younger Ross. Following last season's team n a d i r, h e p u t eve ry t h i n g he had into making sure it wouldn't happen again. Ross' offseason training involved doing everything that strength and condition- ing coach Ben Herbert and his staff could demand, while add- ing yoga classes with a handful of teammates. The change, in term of Ross' movement on the field, appears dramatic. Michigan radio sideline reporter Doug Karsch noted early on this season that Ross looked like he was "shot out of a cannon" on pass rushes. Head coach Jim Harbaugh sees the difference as well in his fifth-year graduate student linebacker. "He does look a step quicker," Har- baugh said. "His coverage is better, he's REACHING HIGHER Josh Ross Is No Little Brother When It Comes To Success

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