If there's one way to describe Jack Ross, it might be this: easygoing. In fact he's so easygoing that when you talk to him, it's hard to imagine him as a hulking defensive lineman.
"I get that a lot," Ross says with a smile. "And I think the biggest thing is on Saturdays at noon, it's a little bit different. ... My dad told me it's like a switch. You don't need to be very aggressive or mean off the field, but definitely when you get inside the lines, you need to be a little more aggressive."
On the field, the University of Chicago senior has dominated. For three straight years, he's led the Maroons in tackles. As a sophomore and junior, the defensive lineman was named First Team All-Conference. And the list of superlatives goes on.
"One of the most active, fun, gregarious, tenacious guys that I’ve had a chance to see on the football field during my 25 years of coaching at the collegiate level," says Maroons head coach Chris Wilkerson.
But it's the work Ross has done off the field that's placed him in the national spotlight. Recently, he was one of just 22 student-athletes from all divisions of college football honored as a member of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which honors players who step up to help those in need.
"Getting an award beyond football I think was absolutely a huge honor," Ross says. "It 100% was an amazing feeling to be able to give back to others and be able to receive that recognition."
Ross' list of philanthropic work is impressive. He's delivered meals to people in need during the pandemic. He's walked a marathon to raise money for charities in his home state of Oklahoma. He's also served as the president of the school's Sports Business team.
"Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg once famously said that winning isn’t worthwhile unless someone has something nobler and finer behind it," Wilkerson says. "Jackson epitomizes what the University of Chicago, our Department of Athletics and our football family certainly stand for. He is absolutely the complete package."
Unfortunately for Ross, odds are strong he never gets to play his senior season in a Maroons uniform. Division III football was postponed due to the pandemic, something that naturally disappointed him.
"Usually you have closure on the field, so I think it hurt for a little bit," says Ross. "But I think for me, I was having to look past it .... This was coming to an end in a few months, so I need to swallow that a little earlier, and figure out where do I go from here."
Ross will graduate in December with a degree in economics, and by next summer, he'll move to New York City to work in private equity. Not surprisingly, he's already thinking about how he can one day take what he's learned through his job and make a difference in others' lives.
"I’ve had a lot of people from Oklahoma who’ve helped me come to this place, a lot of people who’ve given me a chance to make it to New York, so I’d love the chance to be able to give that back to people," says Ross.