It took just 4.22 seconds for John Ross to run his way into the record book
A wide receiver out of the University of Washington, Ross set a new NFL Combine record on Saturday when he clocked an official time of 4.22 seconds in the 40-Yard Dash, narrowly surpassing the previous record of 4.24 seconds set by Chris Johnson in 2008.
Ross’s stupidly fast 40 time, combined with his outrageous showing in the Broad Jump (11’1”), has his draft stock skyrocketing.
But how in the world did this man get so fast?
According to Ross, he’s been fast for as long as he can remember. That’s one reason he believes much of his speed was God-given. “I was 6 years old, outrunning 10-year-olds, stuff like that. It was almost weird,” Ross told STACK. “[I think much of my speed is] God-given. I’ve always been a fast guy. Always been the fastest kid on the team, the fastest kid in school.”
His speed allowed Ross to flourish on the field from a young age, as he simply blew by his competition. But his gift also had a consequence—complacency. When he was a freshman and sophomore in high school, Ross was already so fast that he didn’t see the point in training. “I had a problem with working hard early in high school. I always felt like, ‘well, if I’m faster than these kids, why do I still have to work?’ That [kind of thinking] got me early in my career,” Ross said. He was content with just going through the motions.
But as Ross began to realize his potential, he discovered his drive. “My junior year, I really saw my potential and started working hard. I thought, ‘maybe I can be the best on my team, maybe I can be the best in the league.’ I knew that I could do more on the field the more work I put in. So I started to work harder and I could tell I was getting faster and stronger,” Ross said. “[I realized that] if you work hard today, you’ll improve tomorrow.”
That attitude helped Ross elevate his play and earn offers from powerhouse programs like Michigan, Oregon, UCLA, Miami, Wisconsin and Washington.
At Washington, Ross continued to work hard despite less-than-ideal circumstances. Early in his college career, he bounced between receiver and cornerback, flashing brilliance at both positions but feeling frustrated by his sporadic usage. He envisioned himself as a star wide receiver, not a utility man. During the third game of his sophomore season, he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. He gutted out the remainder of the season, but he wasn’t anywhere close to 100 percent.
After post-season surgery, Ross entered the spring of 2015 ready to prove himself as the team’s top receiver. But during his first full practice of spring ball, a non-contact “freak” injury caused him to tear the ACL and meniscus in his left knee. He was forced to take a medical redshirt for the 2015 season. “Facing the fact that I was going to sit out a whole year with that injury—that was hard to deal with,” Ross said.
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But Ross was diligent with his rehab, allowing him to have a full offseason of training prior to the 2016 season. He made the most of it, putting in extra work whenever he could. “When I got into  spring ball, I felt like I could really become an even better player if I continued to work. So I would set up cones on off days and after practices and do stuff by myself until I was tired. I would get sore, but I felt like if I wanted to reach my maximum potential, then that’s what I had to do,” Ross said. That work ethic led him to clock a 4.25 40-Yard Dash at UW’s annual off-season “Husky Combine.”
Over the Summer, Ross connected with NFL star DeSean Jackson, a fellow native of Long Beach, California, where the two shared many mutual friends. Jackson, a noted speedster himself, invited Ross to train with him for a few days in Los Angeles. Ross accepted the offer. During their sessions together, Jackson taught Ross how to smartly implement his speed for maximum effectiveness. “He showed me how to control my speed,” Ross told NFL.com. “Before [training with DeSean], I just figured, I’m faster than this guy, so I can just outrun this guy. That doesn’t work all the time . . . it was good for me to get with DeSean and learn how to use [my speed] and when to use it and when to turn it on and when to turn it off.”
Ross went on to have an exceptional redshirt junior season, compiling 81 receptions for 1,150 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.
As Ross’s path turns to the NFL, his work ethic continues to light the way. He said, “You never know how far hard work can take you. The potential you have is based off your confidence and how much work you put in.”