Quarterbacks are supposed to see things. The best of them, in fact, see everything — every inch of the field, every possibility for success.
More often than not Coastal Carolina senior quarterback Alex Ross — twice an All-Big South first-teamer and last season’s conference Offensive Player of the Year — has been able to do that, and then some.
He also sees possibilities beyond the stadium walls, possibilities beyond his football career.
None of which was on his mind last Saturday afternoon in Charleston, S.C., when his team, unbeaten and No. 1 in the FCS at the time, was down eight and facing fourth down at Charleston Southern’s 8-yard line.
He stared down a blitz up the gut and understood immediately that the ball had to go to wide receiver Bruce Mapp, who had one-on-one coverage on the left side of the end zone.
Ross fired, but inches wide. Mapp was able to get a fingertip or two on the ball, nothing more. Buccaneers win, 33-25.
“I’d say that last play was on me,” Ross said. “It’s tough, because I feel like as the quarterback and the leader of the team I have a lot of control of what happens, whether we are successful or whether we’re not successful. When it comes down to a close win like that and we have a chance in the end, I definitely think that’s my fault.”
“As a team I think we’re driven this week,” Ross said, “and we want to show people that we can bounce back.”
The odds are good. The Chants went 12-2 last year, 12-3 the year before, each time losing to North Dakota State in the FCS quarterfinals. And Ross, CCU’s career leader in nearly every major passing category, is again enjoying a strong season, despite the fact that he has been playing on a bum ankle lately.
He has clicked on 66.3% of his throws, for 1,798 yards and 10 touchdowns, with three interceptions. As always Ross, a self-described perfectionist, enjoys being in control and believes he can see the best avenue to success.
That’s been true ever since he was young, and not just on the field, either. While in elementary school in Alpharetta, Ga., he was “always looking to make an extra buck,” as he put it, so he formed his own lawn-care service. He switched to quarterback training his sophomore year in high school, schooling youngsters in the finer points of the position.
“I think it was pretty cool to see a lot of the guys transform, who I worked with,” he said.
His own career was taking shape as well. He started out at Alpharetta High School, then moved on to Buford, and in time the recruiters showed interest. He liked the Chants’ spread offense, and didn’t mind that the school is minutes from Myrtle Beach, either.
Besides his on-field success at CCU — he was, in addition to everything else, a finalist for the Walter Payton Award in 2014 – he earned his degree in business management last December, and is on track to earn his MBA next month.
Playing in the NFL is not out of the question for the 6-0, 205-pound Ross. Former Chants running back Mike Tolbert, now with the Carolina Panthers, has enjoyed a productive career. Cornerback Josh Norman has been spectacular in his rookie season with the same club. One of Ross’ predecessors at quarterback, Tyler Thigpen, spent eight years in the league, mostly as a backup.
“In a perfect life, I’d have a good NFL career, I’d have a long NFL career and then when it’s all said and done I’d open up one of my own businesses of some sort,” Ross said. “Whether that be going to law school and maybe being an agent or whether that be opening something like (Jon) Gruden’s (football) camp. … I want to stay affiliated with sports.”
That’s for down the road, though. Right now his focus is on the task at hand, and seeing that the Chants make the most of this season.
It is, after all, what quarterbacks do.