Sports Columns

May 1, 2013

Chris Whitfield: Loud, proud Wesley Ross a guy you want on your team

Wesley Ross is nothing but a big ol’ teddy bear coated in sugar, according to my wife. But if you were a fan of any team that faced North Murray High School in just about any sport, you would think Ross — a senior at North Murray — is the most obnoxious fan in all of Murray County.

However, Ross is 6 feet, 5 inches tall and pushing 300 pounds, so it is doubtful many people have told him that to his face.

On the football field, he was a beast in the heart of an offensive line that opened up enough holes for the Mountaineers to gain more than 4,000 yards of total offense. The tackle’s play during his final high school season this past fall earned him a spot on The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Football Team.

He is a competitor who doesn’t mind a little physicality and wasn’t afraid to be intimidating if it meant a win for his team, and it is because of his size and his competitiveness that Ross will get a chance to play football in college. On Tuesday at North Murray, he celebrated his decision to commit to Maryville (Tenn.) College, an NCAA Division III school.

As a fan, it seems he is even more competitive.

He’s loud, but he is not rude. He shouts, but he never cusses. He might read a man wearing stripes on a basketball court the Riot Act with the amplifier turned up to 11, but it is only because he loves his school and doesn’t mind showing it.

Wesley, how many games you been kicked out of for being loud and directing your voice toward officials or players on the opposing team?

“This season or the last two seasons?” he responded.

Just this year will do.

“I am at five this year, but the year isn’t over yet,” he said. “I am just supporting our teams. If I have to be louder and prouder than anyone else to get a ‘W’, then I will do it.”

It should come as no surprise that Ross’ senior superlative was Most School Spirit, and in those five games from which he was kicked out — all basketball — the Mountaineers were 4-1. However, he can grind on opposing fans.

“I even went out to a soccer game earlier this year, and I don’t even know what soccer is,” he said. “But it was a big game for my school, and I was out there yelling. One of the coaches had to tell me to tone it down a little, but you were there and you heard me.”

Everyone hears Ross. He can’t be missed.

But here is the thing about Wesley Ross. You want him on your wall, and if things go down or you are one of his friends, I doubt there is a thing he wouldn’t do to help you. You want this young man on your team.

“He is one of the first ones that contacted me when I got the job,” said North Murray football coach David Gann, who in 2012 completed his first season leading the Mountaineers.

“He has been a vocal leader for us since I have been here. He is very boisterous, but he will be a big benefit to Maryville in the things that he does. We had a lot of success, and Wesley was one of the leaders on the offensive line. He finishes his blocks until the whistle blows.”

I first got to know Wesley this past football season when I picked against the Mountaineers in a football game. I said I wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid just yet on the turnaround under Gann. North Murray won that Friday night, and the next week an envelope arrived at the office with a note from Ross and a packet of cherry Kool-Aid.

“My mom was worried when I sent that, but I told her you had a good sense of humor and it would be OK,” he said. “If it went wrong, then I am sure the FBI would have been called in to see if it was anthrax.”

I thought it was hilarious and wrote about it then. Shortly after, the Facebook account I share with my wife, Amanda, received a friend request from Ross. Having friends on your wall in Facebook means you can see their posts, pictures and updates.

In an age where you can put whatever you want — no matter how stupid — on a social media site, I am very careful about my Facebook account. Heck, I banned my younger brother from my wall because I got tired of most of the immature stuff he put on his page.

But I am proud to have Wesley Ross on my wall. If all you saw of Ross was his behavior in the stands of a basketball game or him rolling up a defensive lineman like a burrito, then you might not know it, but Ross is a good kid.

He is excited to go to Maryville and get a chance to play football some more, having been won over by the Maryville coaches after getting offers from Reinhardt University and LaGrange College. Division III schools don’t offer athletic scholarships, but they do offer opportunities to study and play, and Ross will take a 3.7 grade point average with him. He plans to major in business and pursue either marketing or accounting career opportunities.

“I have always been good at math, and I would like to have my own business one day,” he said. “I am pretty good at getting people to buy into what I am talking about.”

Just from seeing his posts online, you know he has four big loves — his Mama, Dana Patterson; his Nana, Wanda Morrison; his girlfriend, Amber Deal; and the Lord.

He will take the Lord with him to Maryville, and he isn’t the kind of person who is shy about being evangelical.

“I don’t think that it is hard to be a teenager and follow God,” he said. “Everyone messes up, but it is not about just saying I am a Christian. It is trying to show it outside of everything else. A lot of people might say I get rowdy in basketball games and say that isn’t very Christian, but I don’t cuss at ballgames. I am just a little bit louder.”

While he will take his faith with him, leaving behind the three special ladies in his life will be tougher.

Is Mama getting a little misty at the thought of him going off to college?

“She’s been misty since about ninth grade,” he said with a laugh.

“I am going to miss my Mama. I will miss Nana’s meatloaf and okra and cornbread. And Amber is the sweetest girl in the whole world.”

This is a good kid, and if I ever have to pick teams, Wesley Ross is on mine. I want him on my wall.

Congratulations to my Kool-Aid buddy.

Chris Whitfield is a sports writer for The Daily Citizen. He would be proud if his boys turn out to be a lot like Wesley Ross. You can write to him at chriswhitfield@daltoncitizen.com.

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