As Maryland stumbled its way through the 2011 season, Jarrett Ross watched intently from afar to keep up with his freshman brother's progress and try to gauge whether or not he'd like to eventually join the Terps.
Ross, a Charter School of Wilmington (Del.) cornerback and wide receiver, had picked up a scholarship offer from Maryland last summer – one year after Brandon Ross, his older brother by two years, committed to the Terps.
While Maryland's 2-10 season was a major disappointment to all parties involved, the younger Ross wasn't dismayed. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior was actually encouraged by Randy Edsall's coaching style, and by the offseason staffing moves he made in the aftermath of that disastrous year. Add in the opportunity to play with his brother, and the decision was simple for Ross: he would become the Terps' first commitment of the 2013 class.
His enthusiasm for Maryland hasn't waned a bit in the four-and-a-half weeks that have passed since he committed to the Terps.
"It feels great. It feels fantastic," Ross said. "I'm ready to get going with Coach Edsall, Coach [Brian] Stewart and Coach [Mike] Locksley. Hearing the news about Stefon Diggs' [commitment], I feel good about it. It's a good future."
Jarrett Ross' path to College Park can be traced back to his relationship with Brandon. The Ross brothers played backyard football with their father even before Jarrett was in elementary school. Jarrett followed Brandon to the Charter School of Wilmington, playing on the JV team as an eighth-grader and then teaming up with his older brother for two years on the varsity.
"My first impression was that he was a quiet kid but extremely talented," Lightning Bolts coach Tyran Rice said of Jarrett. "He will remind you of Brandon in a lot of respects. He and Brandon both work hard on their trade, have a good parental system there, a very good background. But the one thing that stands out about them is that they are extremely hard workers. They spend time in the weight room, and spend time in the classroom doing what they need to do. They're serious and focused."
While Brandon floated under the radar before picking Maryland over offers from Army and Delaware State, Jarrett seemed primed from an early age to become a highly touted football recruit. As a ninth grader, the younger Ross beat out a senior for a starting wide receiver spot. He thrived in the same position as a sophomore, and was downright dynamic as a junior, finishing 2011 with 42 catches for 730 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus four rushing scores.
"Not only was he born with gifts, but he doesn't rest on those laurels. He works extremely hard on his craft," Rice said. "Corner is his natural position. The one thing that stood out between him and a lot of kids is he's able to not only run fast, but he's able to change direction. He not only has those great ball skills, but he's able to go up and get it like a receiver."
The standout moment of Ross' junior season, in Rice's opinion, was "Game 7 or Game 8," with Ross hobbled by a groin injury. On the recommendation of Charter's trainers, Ross would only play one way. Rice thought that playing receiver would be easier on Ross' injury, and the future Terp responded with 237 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
"[He's] a playmaker on either side of the ball," Rice said. "He's a kid who makes plays."
When it came to recruiting, Ross' mind was always on the Terps. He had earned his scholarship last summer by running a 4.3 40 at the Terps camp. And he fell in love with the school while accompanying Brandon on previous campus visits. There wasn't a specific moment or event that clinched his decision; the commitment – early as it was in the recruiting cycle – was actually months in the making.
"I wouldn't say [the coaches] were surprised," Ross said. "I would say they were anxious, but they were happy it got done. The deal got done. They kind of figured it was happening a couple weeks before I committed. I was giving vibes that I'm going to be a Terp. I'm going to be there. It's a great fit. They weren't surprised."
Ross, who's leaning toward majoring in business, said he loves the diversity of Maryland, and his brother gave the school and the football program excellent recommendations. Traveling to College Park for a recent Junior Day event – and seeing the remade Terps staff up close and personal – further confirmed Ross' confidence in his choice.
"I think bringing in Coach Stewart and Coach Locksley, these are two great, great minds," Ross said. "They know the game really well. Those two teamed up with Coach Edsall, it's going to be great. It's a huge plus for the program. Multiple good recruiters are going to make this program great. I can't wait to be a part of it."