Senior Ross Wood has not only played a variety of roles for GAC’s football team, he’s thrived in all of them. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior finished last season as the Spartans’ second leading tackler, the county’s second-leading punter and a solid contributor as a receiver. This year, he is adding fullback to his resume, as he hopes to help lead GAC back to the postseason. (Photo: Craig Cappy)
Know your role.
To most football coaches, including Greater Atlanta Christian’s Tim Hardy, it’s more than just a catchphrase. It’s a requirement.
But for Ross Wood, that saying poses a bit of a conundrum.
The problem the GAC senior has is that when he’s told to know his role, he has to ask, “Which one?”
Wood fills so many roles for the Spartans as a starting safety, a fullback that sees plenty of action blocking for speedy tailback Micah Abernathy and the team’s punter, it seems like an impossible task to do everything asked of him.
Yet, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior manages his multi-tasking just fine.
“It’s definitely something I pride myself in, just being versatile,” Wood says. “It’s pretty tough, but watching film and just going to practice — our coaches reiterate film watching and keeping your mind right at practice — have really helped me out. It’s just focusing at practice to learn all the calls.”
Hardy has no complaints about how Wood has juggled his many roles.
And what’s to complain about?
As a junior last season, he was the Spartans’ second-leading tackler with 98 combined stops and assists, tied for third in Gwinnett County with five interceptions, was second in the county among punters with more than six kicks at 42.6 yards per punt and even chipped in a pass reception for 10 yards.
And his senior season got off to a good start with a solid defensive performance and 14 yards on his only carry, while he didn’t even have to attempt a single punt in GAC’s 48-26 win over Stone Mountain. “One of the things that stands out about Ross is he’s a football player,” Hardy said. “He’s just very instinctual with the football, specifically as a defensive back. He just makes plays. He’s got a nose for the ball. He’s a sure tackler. He’s aggressive and he plays with confidence.
“You can see his instincts come through in a lot of things he does, whether it’s playing defense, whether it’s carrying the football, whether it’s punting, whether it’s fielding a kick, whatever it is.”
That doesn’t mean everything has come easy for Wood. He admits some of his roles have been harder to learn than others.
While his role in the secondary and at running back — his original offensive position before he moved to receiver last year — came somewhat naturally to him, he says he had a lot to learn when he was asked to begin punting during his sophomore season two years ago.
And it didn’t take him long to figure it out, as he averaged 38.7 yards on six kicks as a sophomore, though it was the following summer in which everything began to click.
“I didn’t really get serious with it until my junior year,” Wood said. “It was a lot of work in the summer with my kicking coach Clay Cox to help me out with my form to be my best. … Definitely to control my body to do what I wanted it do was tougher.”
Nobody who knows Wood should be surprised he has been able to succeed in so many different roles so quickly.
By his own admission, he is a perfectionist — something he says can be a obstacle to overcome at times, though he believes the drive and determination that trait sparks in him outweighs any detriments.
“I’m a little too hard on myself at times, but I feel like it motivates myself to be the best I can be,” Wood said. “You get motivated by failure. If I fail, I need to come back and try harder to be the best I can be.”
Hardy sees such determination to master any situation as the reason that Wood has excelled in just about everything he’s set out to accomplish, both on and off the field.
And it’s a reason he believes Wood will continue to succeed at both when he heads off to college — he has interest from several schools in the Ivy League, Patriot League and Southern Conference — next year.
“Ross wants to excel at whatever it is he does,” Hardy said. “He’s got over a 4.0 (grade point average). He’s motivated, he’s dedicated, he’s detailed. He’s got a desire to learn the details of his positions and the things that he does, and as much as we’re asking him to do, he’d better know what’s going on. His attention to detail is reflected in his play.”