The Detroit News continues its countdown of the top 15 Blue Chip recruits for 2017 with Josh Ross of Orchard Lake St. Mary's at No. 3.
Josh Ross will leave Orchard Lake St. Mary’s with plenty of great memories after helping his team to a school-record three straight Division 3 state championships.
Ross, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound four-star linebacker, will also depart as one of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s all-time greats before moving on to his college career at Michigan.
That’s what happens when you make impact plays as a 13-year-old freshman, the way Ross did with a fourth-quarter interception to close out a 10-3 win over Toledo Whitmer early in the 2013 season, resulting in his first offer from Oklahoma.
Ross made 123 tackles his sophomore year, including seven stops in a 7-0 state title game win over Muskegon, the first shutout the school had sustained in 200 games.
Ross again had more than 100 tackles his junior year, getting six stops while intercepting a pass in a state championship win over Chelsea.
Ross got in on 140 tackles his senior year, 20 for a loss yardage, to earn a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team.
"He’s a very humble young man, a four-year starter who became one of the best who ever played here,” said coach George Porritt, who has guided St. Mary's to seven state championships. “He wasn’t even close to 100 percent when he played in the state title game. His knee was bothering him and he had a little bit of a hamstring injury and just played his guts out for us.”
Ross' presence was felt in the 29-28 comeback win over Muskegon in the state title game at Ford Field, where he had six tackles, including one for a loss.
But his most memorable game was the 35-28 regional final win over DeWitt, when St. Mary's came back from a 14-0 deficit.
“They were a real good team, up on us 14-to-zip starting off the game and we ended up winning on the last possession," Ross said. "As far as a team win and coming together as a team, that was the highlight of the season for me.
“I played real well in that game. I was making tackles, on offense blocking, and actually scored the game-winning touchdown from the slot. It was a red zone play, 20, 25-yard line on a fourth-and-long play and I caught a touchdown pass on a throw from Caden (quarterback Prieskorn).”
Ross recalled the state title game win over Muskegon.
“I wasn’t going to miss that state championship game,” Ross said. “Sure, it was tough playing with a pulled hamstring and all that type of stuff, but I just had to play through it and we had a great team win, everything came together for us, definitely memorable.”
Now, Ross doesn’t want to sound greedy, but feels St. Mary's could have won four consecutive state championships if the team made the playoffs with a 5-4 record his freshman year. However, St. Mary's didn’t qualify. The team did get in with a 5-4 record this season, winning all five playoff games.
“It was super satisfying to win three straight state championships because our school had never done it before, just wished our freshmen year we would have made the playoffs because we would have contended since we were a real good team that year, as well,” Ross said.
Now, it’s on to Michigan, where his older brother, James Ross, played linebacker for Jim Harbaugh during the Wolverines head coach's first season.
“The reason I picked Michigan was basically it’s a great program right now, on the rise, Jim Harbaugh, Don Brown, all those great coaches, and also because my brother went there,” Ross said. “I had a firsthand experience with everything. I’ve seen how everything works and I was around it a lot, so I just felt it was the right move.”
James Ross played a role in the development of his younger brother.
“Yes, he played a big role in just being the bully, big brother,” Ross said. “I remember when I was younger, I used to be chunky and I had a little roll underneath my armpit so he used to pick on me and flick that roll, so I always worked out as hard as I could to have him stop talking about it.”
DETROIT NEWS BLUE CHIP LIST COUNTDOWN
No. 3: Josh Ross, LB, Orchard Lake St. Mary's (Michigan)