The fullback is a dying breed, but in Iowa City the legacy lives on. The Hawkeyes will look to a tough-nosed senior leader to fill the role in 2019.
Brady Ross – RS Senior
Humboldt, IA (Hymboldt)
6’0”, 246 lbs
2019 Projection: Starting FB
If ever there was a physical embodiment of all that Iowa football has been under Kirk Ferentz, it’s the walk-on redshirt senior who has converted from linebacker into a human battering ram for his team. It seems the story is nearly the same every year, only the names change.
In 2019, it will be Brady Ross and he checks all the boxes. Former walk-on? Check. Fifth year senior? Check. In-state kid? Check. Converted linebacker? Check.
But Ross is also much more than that. He’s a guy that’s spent the last two seasons on Iowa’s leadership group and the last three as an Academic All-Big Ten honoree. He’s played in more than 30 games over those three seasons and he’s looking to go out on a high note.
It should come as no surprise that Ross is a leader in the locker room. As HawkeyeNation points out, he’s always acted older than his age thanks to an older brother with some talented friends.
But he’s also had to grow up earlier than most. In the summer of 2016, as Brady was preparing for his redshirt freshman season at Iowa, his father took his own life. An autopsy revealed he had been suffering from brain cancer.
As Ross prepared for his first season of potential game action, he was left without the man who had always been there. The man who had gone on all the recruiting visits, been there for all the late night talks, was gone. But Brady Ross is a leader.
“Brady, through this whole tragedy, he has been our rock,” Becky said. “He has shown me how to carry on and keep moving forward. He didn’t let his run his life. He kept his focus. He’s just got his head in a really good place and I’m really proud of him about that.”
Ross went on to play in 13 games that redshirt freshman year. He took on a role as a special teams player, seeing little action at fullback in his first year at the position.
But his work ethic and attitude earned him a reputation.
“He doesn’t say a whole lot, but he works incredibly hard,” special teams’ coordinator LeVar Woods said. “He leads by example. When he does speak, people listen and people know he’s serious when he does speak. He’s a very genuine person.”
The Humboldt, Iowa native has only 13 career touches for the Hawkeyes, but 10 of those came a season ago. This despite missing seven games due to injury. Ross carried the ball 6 times for 20 yards with a long of 5 yards last year. He also caught 4 passes for 28 yards and a long of 11. That gives him more receptions last year than all of Iowa’s tight ends have in their careers combined.
Entering his senior season, Ross will be looking for more. That begins with the little things Iowa asks of their fullbacks. Which is to say, play an integral pet in the offense without much praise and a whole lot of headaches.
It’s a role Ross seems eager to take on. When asked this spring about improving the running game in 2019, he was quick to point out the role he can play in springing more runs.
We should also expect the occasional quick dive in short yardage situations. Ross has already shown himself to be effective there. What will be interesting to watch is whether the Hawkeyes seek to utilize the fullback more with the departure of their two NFL tight ends.
Could we see Ross slipping out of the backfield from time to time? Would Brian Ferentz ever look to motion the fullback into that second, blocking tight spot? It’s possible.
And if there’s one player to do it, it’s the fifth year senior leader who’d do anything for his team.