In Michigan’s 2012 class, it signed three players who played youth football together for the Westside Cubs, linebackers James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone and cornerback Terry Richardson.
Although they would attend different high schools — Ross went to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Jenkins-Stone and Richardson went to Detroit Cass Tech — the three did a lot together. They attended camps together, decided in middle school they would go to college together and they trained together.
They often had a tag along when they trained in Ross’ younger brother Josh, now a Michigan commit.
“He’s going to be better than all of us,” Richardson said back then.
Five years younger than his brother and his friends, Ross was training with them and keeping up.
“Every day since little league I was trying to be better than my brother,” Josh said. “Each and every day, he would push me to my limit. One day, I remember it was too hot to practice and he was mad I didn’t want to practice and he didn’t talk to me for about a month. Each day in high school, each year, I wanted to be better than him.”
Many would say he accomplished that goal and that is saying something considering James started as a sophomore at St. Mary’s, was a top-100 national recruit, started 21 games at Michigan and got into camp with the San Diego Chargers.
Josh started as a freshman at St. Mary’s, an extremely rare occurrence for that program.
Before that, however, he played for the Westside Cubs, the same youth team his older brother played for. It is also the same program that produced Larry Foote, Braylon Edwards and Nick Perry, among others and is about to have three players — Michigan State’s Malik McDowell, Iowa’s Desmond King and Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis — drafted.
Cubs A-team coach William Tandy remembers the first moment he knew Ross was special.
“When Joshua was 10, he was still too nice,” Tandy said. “It was their championship game, at halftime, where he was not dominating like he should and his father asked me to come over and talk to him. I talked to Josh as if he was a 14-year-old on the A-team.
“My vernacular was probably not appropriate, but I jumped in his case so hard that I knew one of two things would happen. It would break him and he would bow his head or he would come out in the second half and become a manchild. The second half, he played like one and led his team to championship. That’s when I knew he had the temerity to go dominate.”
A few years later, Ross was with Tandy on the A-team. He was the most talented player on the team, but he was not treated as such and yet again, he responded.
“Lots of kids in this city whose parents think they’re that great are always putting them as the next best thing,” Tandy said. “Josh’s father never did that. I never did that. I made him work harder than anyone else on the field and he always stuck to that challenge.
“What he did when no one was watching at 13 and 14 were what my college kids were doing, NFL guys were doing. The first day of practice when he was first in sprints, first in laps, going 110 mph, I knew.”
Following that first practice, Tandy called Foote and told him he found the linebacker that would break all his records at Michigan. Foote was amused at the idea that Tandy could see far enough into the future to predict a 10 year old would someday do that the two men created a standing bet.
Today, after seeing Ross go through his high school career, Tandy is as confident as ever in his forecast.
“Out of all the linebackers to come in between Foote and to the present, Josh reminds me most of Larry from the standpoint of his athleticism,” Tandy said. “Unlike Nick Perry, Johnny Thompson who played at Michigan, James, those guys were mostly linemen and linebackers throughout their younger days. Josh was a running back and linebacker. His athleticism was phenomenal. He already has the size most collegiate and NFL folks look for, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound type body.
“My prediction is he’s going to be the best middle linebacker in this class in the country.”
Tandy said he realizes that is a lot of expectation to put on a kid, but he has put a lot on Ross before and each and every time, he has responded.
Allen Trieu began covering the state of Michigan for Scout.com in 2005 and began managing the entire Midwest in 2009. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.