PHILADELPHIA – It took fewer than five seconds, but that’s all John Ross needed to become a household name.
The former Washington wide receiver set an NFL scouting combine record in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.22 seconds, passing running back Chris Johnson’s mark of 4.24 in 2008.
His draft stock soared. But now, Ross is fighting off something unexpected: a reputation.
“Definitely,” Ross said Wednesday when asked if the 40-yard dash time had become a little bit of a curse. “I don’t like the label, to be honest, because I feel like I’ve always been fast. It’s something that I’ve carried my whole life. And I want to get noticed for the things that I do that are actually better than just running fast.
“That 4.22 – it means so much to everybody else. It doesn’t mean that much to me. It doesn’t get me nowhere in life. Just because I ran a 4.22 doesn’t make me the best receiver in the game, and that’s what I do. I don’t pride myself on running straight. I pride myself on the skill set that I get to contribute to my team.”
Speaking to reporters at a Play 60 event at Shriners Hospitals for Children, Ross addressed his status as one of the top receivers available in the NFL draft, which starts Thursday night with the first round. Ross is widely expected to hear his name called then, thanks in large part to his speed.
Ross, however, feels that the attention paid to his blazing time detracts from the focus to some of the other things he can do on a football field.
“I feel like I’m not exactly one-dimensional like people see,” Ross said. “The media kind of shows that because I did break the record. So I think some people say: ‘Well, he’s only getting drafted because he ran a 4.22.’ That’s not what got me to where I am. Running fast does not put you in a great spot. There’s a lot of guys who ran fast over the years, not to discredit those guys for what they did and the work they put it.
“I think it’s a lot of stuff that I did for my team. Most of my touchdowns came from the red zone. There’s no deep balls in the red zone. There are fade balls, but still, that’s more technical than running a go route. Those intermediate routes, I’ve worked on those and I’ve gotten better at those, and I think that’s what got me here today.”
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.