SEATTLE — John Ross had a dream last year. It happened a few months after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, an injury that put him on the sideline for the 2015 University of Washington football season.
In his dream, Ross saw himself scoring a touchdown on the opening kickoff of his first game back for the Huskies.
On Saturday afternoon, the junior speedster pretty much made his dream come true in Washington’s 48-13 victory over Rutgers in the season opener at Husky Stadium. True, it was not the opening kickoff of the game, but instead the kickoff that followed a Rutgers field goal early in the second quarter. But that small detail aside, Ross turned his dream into reality.
And what a sweet moment it was for a player who had endured the heartache of a grievous injury and then the tedium of a long, grueling rehabilitation.
“It was,” Ross admitted afterward, “kind of unreal. … Just to take one back was amazing to me. I felt good and I was really happy that it happened.”
The kickoff return was actually the third touchdown of the game for Ross, who had scored twice on late first quarter touchdown passes from UW quarterback Jake Browning. The first of those covered 38 yards down the right sideline while the second, just three minutes later, was a 50-yard strike down the middle.
But the kickoff return was one of the game’s big highlights. Ross caught the ball at the 8-yard line, started straight up the field, burst through a seam and cut to the left sideline. He eluded the kicker near midfield and then won a footrace to the end zone, though he got bumped in his final few strides and ended up tumbling across the goal line.
It was Ross’ fourth career kickoff return for a touchdown, which is a UW all-time record (he had shared the previous record of three with Jim Krieg in 1970 and 71). It was also the fifth career touchdown of 90 yards or more for Ross.
Not surprisingly, his teammates enjoyed the show. “I’ve been waiting for that for a whole year now,” said fellow wide receiver Dante Pettis.
“Having him now just creates more explosive plays for us as a team and as an offense,” added receiver Chico McClatcher. “We’re glad he’s back.”
Said UW coach Chris Petersen: “We waited a long time to get him back and it was nice to see him score touchdowns.”
Ross said he has anticipated playing again “since the day I tore my knee. Since the day they told me it was a torn ACL, I’ve been looking forward to this day.”
And as the Rutgers players can attest, Ross has not lost any speed after the injury and a subsequent surgery. “I feel better than I have ever,” he said. “I feel bigger and faster, and I am just really thankful I am able to do it again.”
As for any other similar football dreams, Ross says they are infrequent.
“I barely dream,” he explained. “I barely sleep these days because I’m so happy that I’m back. It’s kind of hard to stay asleep.
“I am,” he said, “so thankful and grateful and everything you could think of (to be playing once more). I’m really happy to be able to do it again.”