This time last year, Justyn Ross wasn't sure he'd ever put on football pads again.
Now, he's just a couple of months away from potentially being cleared full-go by doctors following surgery for a bulging disk in his back. The process of rehab, waiting, more waiting and then a return to football would be tough on anyone, but the Clemson receiver has never let the prospect that at one time he might never play again get him down.
"I'm very grateful. I'm taking advantage of every route I can get. I was smiling (the first time he put the pads on last fall) because I realized how quickly the game could be taken away from me.
"It's been hard, but I just put everything in God's hands like my grandma said to do. So I just put everything in God's hands and went on and did everything the doctors told me to do, everything my coaches told me to do."
Still, it was a scary time. Ross had never had major surgery before, and preparing to have congenital fusion in the spine repaired is about as big as it can get. There was no guarantee he'd be the same person physically again, but the surgery was successful, and then a hard process of missing the season and working his way back began.
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"I wasn't able to do anything for about three months," Ross said. "I just had to sit down and just wait for a little bit but three months after that (surgery) mark, I was able to lift a little bit, and probably around what it was like, October, November, I was able to put a helmet on and able to run routes and stuff."
Ross tried not to let missing the entire 2020 season get to him. It was a big blow to the team. He knew that and wanted to be out there as it was another mental obstacle Ross had to overcome.
"I didn't really let myself get down because I know that can't help me, that can't do nothing for me," Ross said. "But it was hard just sitting on the sideline watching. I mean it was my first time I missed a football season in my whole life."
While Ross will have to miss the spring game Saturday, it's likely the last time he won't be on the field this year as he's expected to be cleared for contact by this summer.
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