January 19, 2022
"Changing Lives, Improving Communities"

Diamond In The Rough: Keilen Ross

Kelien Ross is a 5’9 180 pound running back out of U High Lab School in Baton Rouge, LA. With a 4.5 40 yard dash, 240 pound bench, and 370 pound squat, Ross is the ultimate combination of speed and power for any offense. Ross is lethal in the slot back and running back position. At running back, Ross’s vision and patience allows him to hit any holes opened up along the offensive line. Ross’s speed allows him to get the boundary quickly and fluidly, turning the corner with ease and taking it upfield. At the slot back position, Ross is the do it all receiver. Wheel routes, out routes, slants, posts, Ross can do it all. With strong hands, the ability to make people miss in space, as well as the vertical ability to get up and snag the contested catch, Ross is a seamless fit for any spread offense. As a rising senior, Ross looks forward to securing a state championship for the 3rd time before his collegiate journey begins. With a 3.2 GPA, Ross should have no problem balancing school with football as he enters into the next phase of his career. 

What sparked your interest in football? – As a young kid I would always go out to the park and watch other kids play football. I was intrigued by the play itself. It intrigued me enough to play on the C team. Once I put on the pads and coaches started to see my speed and playmaking abilities I was hooked. I started out playing running back and slowly moved on to other skill positions.

So what is C team ball? – C team is essentially pee wee, 9-10 year olds and up to 13-14 years old playing ball. 

You mentioned you started out at running back and moved up to other skill positions. What attracts you to those positions personally? – It makes you feel as if you are in a video game. I get to make my own moves and my own decisions. I also enjoy the challenge of a 50/50 move. Challenging a guy one on one in open space and seeing if I can put him on the ground with my skills. I just enjoy using my skills to directly affect the game.

Moving into high school as a rising senior, tell me a little about your journey from freshman year to now? – Starting off freshman year in the summer I went straight through “the o”. I started weights and practiced immediately. Coach Mahaffey showed me the ropes. He showed me how testy high school football can get. Playing with Jordan Clark, Mike Collins, Christian Harris etc. they showed and instilled in me that you can start off in a younger grade and if you work hard enough you will own a significant role in this offense. So 9th grade year I wasn’t eligible because I wasn’t living in the school district. In 10th grade I was battling at the second string position. The player I was battling for my position ended up getting injured. That gave me the opportunity to play my first varsity game and score my first varsity touchdown. The game after that against Southern Lab, our starting running back needed a breather. My coach put me in the second quarter and my first run I ran for 34 yards. From there, coach saw my potential and I got to split reps. 11th grade year our starting running back left as well as Dorian Harris (slotback). My coach had already seen the damage I could do as well my ability to play in the slotback position so he moved me there and the rest is in the stat sheet. 

Speaking of interchanging between the slot back and running back position, where would you say you are most lethal on the field? -I would say slot. I have improved my route running quite a bit. Coming in on jet sweeps, swing passes, getting past blocks into the next level. Putting the moves on in one on one situations is where I would say I am most lethal.  

Are you training with anyone outside of U High? – Yes I am on a 7 on 7 team called F3 Elite. My coach, Coach Ken trains me on footwork and route running etc. His company is called F3 which is short for Fast 360

Which coach in your life has been most influential to you specifically pertaining to your development as a player? -I would have to say my little league coach, coach Scott. He helped me get more confident in the running game. He actually compared me to some greats like Barry Sanders and Marshall Faulk. 

Who would you say is most inspiring to you as a professional football player? – That’s a tough one. I have to go with Tyreek Hill. He was originally a running back at Oregon State and was battling through adversity trying to become a starter. He then was drafted and placed in the slot just like me. 

Speaking of adversity, what is the most challenging thing you’ve had to battle through as a football player? – Getting injured. After you get injured the pressure is on to come back 100% and pick up right where you left off as a starter. I injured my AC joint in my shoulder this year and had to sit out 2 weeks. My coach expected me to be ready for the first round of the playoffs.

Did you feel the pressure from your coaches to be 100%? – No not really. My coaches were understanding and just told me stay rested and get my physical therapy in. My coach was precocious and told me to stay out of the last game so that I could fully heal and be ready for the first round.

What is your greatest strength out of both of the positions that you play and which do you like better? – For running back I would say vision and agility. Once a defender attempts to tackle me I am able to easily bounce or spin off. At receiver, I am lethal at those swing routes and 5 yard outs. As for which I like better I would say receiver. I have more opportunities to make plays and at slot I still can run the ball off those jet sweeps or motion plays. 

In ten words or less how would you describe your attributes to a NFL GM or scout? – Coachable, Speedy, Agility, Hustle, Work Ethic, Knowledgeable, Strong. 

Is there a part of your game you feel you can improve or that you are currently working to perfect? – I can improve my speed. I’m at a 4.5 and I think I can get that down to a 4.4 maybe even a 4.3. As of right now I’m working on a lot of footwork and route running. Just perfecting my cuts and secondary moves at the top of my routes. 

How have your coaches addressed the coronavirus and how are you currently staying in shape? – Our strength and conditioning coach, Coach Landry has sent out packets with a suggested workout plan and what the plan is for the team for the next month or so until this whole pandemic blows over. He gave us individual workouts and suggestions on what to do if we don’t have weights or access to a gym. Outside of that I’ve been working with my trainer Coach King on a limited basis because he obviously has to prioritize his health. 

As a rising senior at U High how have settled into a leadership role on the team? – I’ve just been trying to set a good example. In the weight room, on the field, in the classroom. I am trying to be that guy that these underclassmen can look up to. I’m trying to show them to be more responsible and to step up to the plate and start gaining leadership responsibilities. 

As a team what are ya’lls goals this season? – Getting another state championship. If we do that we will be the first team in U High history to have 3 state championships under our belts. My first two seasons we won state championships but last year we came up short by a field goal in the semifinals against De La Salle. 

As you move forward out of High School, what are your goals going into college academically? – I would like to enter college to become an Orthopedic or a Physician. I would like to still be around the game after my career is over in football. Helping athletes recover has always been interesting to me. Listening to their journey and hearing their stories really inspires me.  

Is there a specific doctor that has inspired you to take this path? –  His name is Doctor Bankston. He is the team physician and has been very influential to me at least in the recovery aspect.  

If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing before you entered football what would it be? – Never second guess yourself. Always trust your gut. There were times where I doubted myself during play or where I’ve tweaked something and I doubt myself and my abilities. I try to not do that as much and trust what my intuition tells me.