LVHS alum is about the big picture
It’s clear that Isaiah Ross is more than about sports.
The young man and former Leavenworth High graduate (class of 2015) left the Pioneers and headed to Macomb, Illinois, and Western Illinois University for a crack at Football Championship Series football and the Missouri Valley Conference – the nation’s best at Division I-AA.
“I had very high standards for myself and I truly believed that I was going to do big things,” Ross said. “It was great. I've always dreamed of going to a D1 school for football and I made it happen with my school work and my athletics. That was a major high point in my life.
“A low point in my early college days is the game wasn't the same. The summer of 2015 was a lonely one as I had a lot of time to actually think with no family, no friends, a new team, a new town. All I had was my thoughts and I began to question if this was really what I wanted.”
Once that first season wrapped at Western, Ross came back home and transferred to the University of Saint Mary.
“The University of Saint Mary took me in when I was just about ready to walk away from the game,” Ross said. “I played my last year of ball with the program this past fall. The program is still young but is ready to contend for bigger and better things this upcoming year. It'll be fun to watch.”
Ross has moved on to pursue his academic exploits and leaves behind a strong portfolio that includes being an all-state defensive back and Top 11 scholar athlete in 2015. That year he also led the Pioneers to the 2014 Class 5A playoffs which included a 63-0 beating of Lansing in the fall of 2014.
“I can’t let them forget,” Ross said of that game.
Then came the college game and the lessons learned.
“College sports are definitely way more competitive as everyone is fighting to be the best to get to the league (NFL),” Ross said. “Coming in as a freshman I believed I expected what was coming. The yelling, the expectations, the film sessions, the playbook, the conditioning, the early mornings and the later nights. All was expected.
“But what I didn't expect was the business type aspect of the college football. Some coaches can be as good as a used car salesmen. Tell you one thing, but once you sign that paper you get something you were not looking for. It's a crazy thing. College sports at any level is difficult, don't get me wrong. The competitive level is intense and I knew I was going to have to fight my way onto a travel squad.”
Ross’ athleticism is unquestioned, but even as solid an athlete as he is, he also realized that there are a lot of other young men like him.
“Rudest awakening was the speed of the game,” Ross said. “Guys that look like they couldn't ball were the guys that were the fastest and the strongest. Looks can be deceiving and I got my butt kicked a whole lot more whether that be in 1-on-1s or team drills. Reality struck and like the famous saying goes ‘Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore,’ and I'll just leave it at that.”
Ross did enjoy the easier aspects of college, saying if one has their priorities straight they can easily work academics into a schedule and excel even if football dominates one’s life.
He also added that he was happy to have played in the Sunflower League while at Leavenworth.
“Sad to see us leave it,” Ross said of the school’s decision to leave the league after the 2017-18 school year. “I loved how I got to compete against some very great players who are now stars at their current colleges.”
He also believes that USM is heading in the right direction.
“It’s a fresh program still and the potential is there as the team last year was full of dogs and went out every Saturday knowing there was an opportunity to dominate,” Ross said. “They ended the year with the best record ever in the history of the program.”
Ross also believe he has learned some valuable tips for hopeful college athletes.
n Stay off social media. “I've seen so much potential get ruined due to posting things or retweeting.”
n It is a business. “Don't take it personal, just know that every visit you take you treat it like it's a business trip.”
n Education is truly huge. “Just because they set the bar low for us athletes doesn't mean we have to settle. Be the best you can and go to class.”
n No excuses. “My science teacher in I think fifth grade told me, ‘Student-athlete, you have to be on your ‘A’ game whether that be in the classroom or on the field.’”
n Nothing good happens past 12. “Shout out to (USM) coach (Jay) Osborne. No need to be out late doing things you'll regret. Get to sleep or play some 2k.”
n The grind never stops. “Someone is always gunning for you, just got to be ready at all times. Work, work, work.”
n Don't be discouraged going on a visit to a junior college. “One thing I regret is not picking up the phone when they called because they can prepare you for what you need to succeed and be a beast. Name dropping (Leavenworth alum) Jeff George. The guy went to a JUCO and now is a top wide receiver for the Tennessee Volunteers’ receiving core. It does not matter where you come from.”
It all boils down to a career and times Ross will be hard pressed to let go of as he moves on to other challenges.
“I remember the swagger Dream 15 had,” Ross said. “It was something I'll take to the grave. We all knew we had each others’ back no matter what. What I would do to put that Pioneer jersey back on and represent the hard work that we had put in and the coaches had put in to get us those college letters. Man, I was truly blessed and will always be a Pioneer at heart.”