Ross didn't exactly call his shot the previous day, but he did tell those listening that his record-setting sprint was possible.
"Under 4.3 [seconds]," the former Washington wide receiver told reporters. "That's what I plan to run."
Buzz about Ross' run started after unofficial results had him breaking Johnson's previous record, set in 2008, with the first of his two scheduled 40-yard dashes. The NFL confirmed Ross' official time of 4.22 seconds later Saturday.
"When I got there, everything kind of got quiet. I had so much adrenaline," Ross told ESPN's Josina Anderson. "I was nervous right before I went, so I was up on my hands. Everything got quiet; I couldn't hear anything. And I just took off. I held my breath ... and it just went on from there."
Ross confirmed to Anderson on Friday that he will undergo shoulder surgery on March 14. He also missed the 2015 season at Washington after suffering a torn ACL during a spring practice earlier that year.
"I'm just thankful beyond measure, blessed, and just really happy to be in this situation," Ross told the NFL Network on Saturday. "Because two years ago, I was sitting on the couch for the whole season, torn ACL, and now to be in this position, I'm really thankful."
Ross elected not to run a second time, saying that he "cramped up toward the end" of his first run.
"[I'm] just real tight right now -- both calves, maybe dehydration," he said.
The timing devices at the combine use a hand-held device to start the clock and an electronic eye at the finish. The clock is started when the prospect raises his hand that is touching the ground in a three-point stance at the start.
Ohio State's Curtis Samuel was unofficially clocked at 4.31 seconds in his 40 and was the second-fastest player among the wide receivers who ran inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday.
Ross, who had 81 receptions for 1,150 yards to go with 17 touchdowns this past season, did not win an island for his trouble since he was wearing Nike shoes for his run.
Adidas had offered an island to any prospect who broke Johnson's record while wearing the company's 2017 Adizero 5-Star 40 cleats and then agreed to endorse the company's shoes for the entire 2017-18 season.
Adidas' offer included the caveat that an island would be awarded "as soon as reasonably possible" or that the company could pay the prospect $1 million instead.
"I really can't swim that well," Ross said. "And I don't have a boat, so, you know, I had to run in Nikes."
Nike signed Ross shortly after his record sprint, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.
|Michael Conroy/Associated Press|
JOHN ROSS IS MORE THAN JUST THE NFL COMBINE'S NEW FASTEST MAN
John Ross told us it was going to happen. Teammate Budda Baker did too. And then Ross lined up on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium and did the unthinkable by running a 4.22 official time in the 40-yard dash, setting a new NFL combine record.
Who is the man everyone in the NFL is talking about right now?
“A clean Tyreek Hill” is how one NFL wide receiver coach put it.
Meet John Ross. A wide receiver destined for the first round with his blazing-fast speed.
Ross was a Scout 4-star recruit coming out of Long Beach, California, and committed to play wideout for the Huskies. He got off to a solid start in 2013 and began working his way into the lineup as an up-and-comer at the receiver position and as a return man. During the 2014 season, while Ross was a backup receiver, he actually started at cornerback for four games after Marcus Peters was removed from the team. That kind of athleticism and versatility was turning heads before he was draft eligible.
The 2015 season was supposed to be Ross’ coming-out party, but a torn ACL in spring practice had him redshirting for that year. Known for his game-changing ability with the ball in his hands, Ross was primed for a huge season in Chris Petersen’s offense if he could stay healthy in 2016.
In his final year of college, Ross became one of the best players in the nation. His explosive yards-after-catch ability and skills as a deep threat were a perfect match for quarterback Jake Browning. The two connected on 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns in an offense designed to give Ross room to run. Once he has that, he’s gone.
Heading into the combine, scouts were concerned about Ross’ ability to stay healthy. He had injuries to both knees in college and is currently awaiting surgery on a labrum tear suffered late in the season. But as one scout texted me Saturday, "If Ross can run that fast with a torn labrum and cramps, imagine how fast he is when someone is chasing him." That same scout’s team clocked Ross at 4.16 seconds using a handheld timer during his 40 run.
Teams will be lining up to see Ross at the Washington pro day on March 11. There, Ross will be tested on his route tree and ability to track the ball down the field in conditions not as favorable as in Indianapolis.
One thing is for certain, though: Ross will be a first-round pick in April as long as he checks out medically. He’ll have shoulder surgery on March 14 and should be ready for summer minicamps with a normal rehab time. That’s all NFL wide receiver and special teams coaches need to hear to know they can plug Ross into their schemes.
The NFL coach compared Ross to Tyreek Hill, and while that’s a fun comparison, he isn’t limited to special teams or being just a gadget player. Ross is a legit route-runner and has a much more dynamic ability to leave defenders in the dust with his breaks and cuts. Hill is arguably more powerful as a runner, but Ross is the more complete player. He’s perhaps a mix of Hill’s speed and DeSean Jackson’s route-running skills.
That’s a pretty dangerous combo.
With so little top-tier talent in the 2017 wide receiver class—only Ross, Mike Williams of Clemson and Western Michigan's Corey Davis are in my first-round rankings—this creates a considerable amount of buzz for the Huskies star.
Ross, according to one scout I spoke with after the receiver's 40, could go ahead of Williams due to concerns about the Clemson man's deep speed and separation. It will vary team by team due to offensive system and needs, but Ross is already thought of as a better receiver than any player drafted in the 2016 first round by one scout I spoke with.
When he stepped off the plane in Indianapolis, Ross had to know he had a chance at the record in the 40. To do so with that pressure on him and a bum shoulder? That's one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen at the NFL Scouting Combine.
NFL Combine: John Ross tells media he plans to run 'under 4.3,' then breaks record
Self-assuredly, University of Washington wide receiver John Ross stood in front of the media Friday at the Indiana Convention Center and matter-of-factly laid out his goal for Saturday’s running of the 40-yard dash.
When asked if he believed he could break Chris Johnson’s combine record of 4.24 set in 2008, Ross said, “I’m going to try. I am going to try. I don’t want to say too much. I’m going to try. I’m going to give it my best.”
He then added, “Under 4.3. That’s what I plan to run.”
Ross turned out to be a soothsayer when he blistered the 40 in 4.22 (the “official” time announced by the NFL), and then said afterward on NFL Network, “I feel like I could have run faster.”
To that end, Twitter was filled with those saying some scouts timed his run as low as 4.16.
Former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, now with NFL Network, said five of six watches in his area had Ross under 4.20, with the sixth at 4.25. SiriusXM host Gil Brandt timed Ross at 4.25, but said a scout near him registered a 4.21 time. Other scouts had the run at 4.16, 4.18 and 4.19.
The reality? Ross is obviously fast, but unfortunately he didn’t qualify to win an island from Adidas , which promised that gift to someone that broke Johnson’s record wearing the company’s Adizero 5-Star 40 cleats. Ross was wearing Nike.
For his part, Johnson said on SiriusXM NFL Radio prior to the combine, “To be honest, I don’t want to see the record go. But if somebody does break it ... I’ll be happy for them and give them a handshake and congratulate them.”
Ross, who was already projected as a first-round draft pick by NFLDraftScout.com, measured in at 5-foot-10 1/2 and 188 pounds, and will soon spend several months recuperating from scheduled labrum surgery on March 14.
Missing OTAs could be seen as a negative, but he would miss them anyway, because Washington is on a quarter system and final exams don’t end until June 9.
Ross also hit 11-foot-1 in the broad jump, which is tied for the fifth-best by a wide receiver since 2003.
As for why he elected to participate in the combine with surgery in just 10 days, Ross said, “Because I wanted to compete. I wanted to come here and enjoy this process. Not everyone can do this. Just thankful and blessed to have this opportunity. I wanted to come out and compete versus the other guys.”
Ross, who has gotten to know wide receiver DeSean Jackson, also showed his knowledge of the NFL game when he was asked about his value despite being less than 6-foot tall.
“You just look at the history,” Ross said. “We have a lot of great guys who set great examples like Brandin Cooks, DeSean, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders. Those guys are not 6-foot tall and they are very productive. Antonio Brown. He is now the highest-paid receiver in the league and he is not 6-foot. Guys that came before us who have set a great example why (their success) should transfer to guys like me, guys who are not as tall.”
Ross was also realistic when asked what he tells teams that ask about his strengths and weaknesses.
“Speed is definitely a strength,” he said laughing, adding, “My weakness is probably physicality. Just knowing when to be physical, how to be physical because there will be a lot of guys who are going to see me as a smaller guy so they are going to want to press me.”
But he’s not worried about getting physical.
“I played this season with a messed up shoulder,” Ross said. “I will get stronger and continue to keep working.”
Ross knows how hard he will have to work and said the next big step is to improve his “football IQ.”
“I have to be able to know how to read deep coverages,” he added. “I have to be smart and basically work on my craft every single day to get better, continue to get better. Those guys (in the NFL) they know what is going on.”
Coming back from a knee injury that cost him the 2015 season, Ross became a complete receiver and caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards with 17 touchdowns, helping the Huskies advance to the national championship semifinals against Alabama.
“I didn’t just want to be just a speed guy,” Ross said. “I wanted to use my speed to help me get better in different ways. So that is what I did. Focus less as a speed guy and run just intermediate routes and just playing better than what people thought I would.”
But Saturday’s show was all about speed, and that will mean there will be plenty of eyes on John Ross wherever he lands in the draft.