Frequently Mistaken for His Brother, Josh Ross Determined to Forge Own Michigan Legacy

josh ross michigan linebacker

Frequently Mistaken for His Brother, Josh Ross Determined to Forge Own Michigan Legacy

Football

Frequently Mistaken for His Brother, Josh Ross Determined to Forge Own Michigan Legacy

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — There are two Rosses on the Michigan team as of current. One’s a former player and graduate assistant, and the other is following in his footsteps as the next great Wolverines linebacker.

But, even though Josh Ross came to Michigan two years after his brother graduated, he can’t escape him. Not on the team itself, with the elder James joining the squad this offseason as a coach, as well as, with their uncanny resemblance, being called James.

He hears it every single day.

“All the time,” Ross said. “All the time, I mean, all the time. All the time. We got called twins, we got called – so many things! I get called James every day, but it is what it is. I mean – he’s short and fat, and I’m a little more built! It is what it is!”

But Josh is determined to establish himself as his own player. He’s playing multiple positions, having spent the past offseason learning both the WILL and MIKE positions.

As a result, though he didn’t start at either position, with WILL competitor Devin Gil getting the nod at the game’s outset, when Devin Bush Jr. went out of the game in the second half with injury, Ross got a premium opportunity to fill in at middle linebacker.

His impact? He ended up making 5 tackles on the day — one more than he did all of 2017 playing on special teams.

Though he already was seeing the field, spelling Gil at WILL, when he got the call up to MIKE, the most important thing to Ross was that he step up and make sure there was as little drop off from Bush’s production.

“What went through my mind is I’ve gotta step up to his position and play just like he would play” Ross said. “Personally, I wanted to step up and make the same impact that he would make. So when he went down, I just said, ‘Okay, let’s go. I’ve gotta come in, and I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do.”

And he was able to do so because of his preparedness.

Learning both positions is a difficult task. Middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and is responsible for many things — from lining up the other players, to recognizing what the offense is presenting. Because he had time on task learning WILL already, it helped Ross gain an understanding of yet another position.

Thus, he’s setting himself apart from his elder brother, who had 35 tackles his senior year.

“Playing MIKE linebacker versus WILL – MIKE is more of a position where you kind of take the place of all the backers,” Ross said. “Certain things, you’ve just got to fill certain gaps, and we switch and all that type of stuff. Out the box, WILL, it’s more like doing a job and MIKE you can be more of a ball player. You can go from tight end, from tackle to tackle instead of just being on one side of the ball.”

He later added: “It’s definitely challenging. I would say though, what helped me out was learning WILL before I learned MIKE. They’re interchangeable positions, but at the same time, they’re different. So learning WILL would kinda allow me to know certain situations that I could be in at the MIKE, to a certain degree. So, it was challenging, but I’m so glad I did it, because it helped me out so much to learn everything.”

While he’s working to become his own player, when he’s called James, he just rolls with the punches.

He hears it from everyone, including his head coach. “If Coach Harbaugh calls me James, I just go along with it,” he said.

With his brother on staff, he does get a unique perspective. He’s been there before — done that. Now, it’s his job to assess the linebackers. Still, he give useful advice, and doesn’t hover, like some kind of helicopter sibling.

After the loss to Notre Dame, the elder Ross told the younger just what he needed to hear.

“Honestly, he just told me to keep playing, keep getting better,” Ross said. “It was a tough game, but we’ve just gotta learn from it, improve off of the first game of the season. It’s early, so you’ve just gotta keep getting better. Keep doing what you’re supposed to do. Keep working.”

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