On Day 3 of the three-day NFL draft, Justyn Ross tweeted that he needed just "1 chance" at his shot in the league.
Now he has it.
The Clemson wide receiver once projected as a first-round pick didn't get selected in the draft, but instead signed up on Monday with one of the NFL's most explosive offenses. Jordan Schultz and NFL Network reports that Ross has signed as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs.
From top-10 prospect to too risky for the draft
A five-star prospect out of high school, Ross exploded as a freshman at Clemson in 2018, tallying 46 receptions for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns while catching passes from Trevor Lawrence. That rate works out to 21.7 yards per catch. He torched Alabama with six catches for 153 yards and a touchdown in the national championship game that season.
A 6-4 burner with big-play ability, Ross was pegged as a first-round prospect when he was eligible for the the draft. Injury hit before he got his chance.
After his sophomore season, Ross was diagnosed with a congenital spinal condition called Klippel-Feil syndrome. Per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, "people with KFS are born with abnormal fusion of at least two spinal bones (vertebrae) in the neck."
Injuries derail Ross' plans
The condition required spinal surgery and threatened to end Ross' football career. Pittsburgh Steelers surgeon Dr. David Okonkwo performed the procedure in 2020, removing a disc that impeded Ross' spinal cord. Okonkwo spoke with ESPN about Ross' condition prior to last weeks's draft.
"Justyn has a condition that is very rare, and to my knowledge, there is no precedent of another high-level American football player with this condition playing football," Okonkwo said.
Another setback for Ross
Ross did return to football. After missing the 2020 season, Ross played for Clemson in 2021, tallying 46 catches for 514 yards and three touchdowns. His season ended early in November due to another injury, this time to his left foot. Ross had a stress fracture. He'd played with it all season.
He'd been diagnosed with the fracture prior to the start of the season, but decided to play, having seen his career already set back by his spinal surgery. By November, the injury became too much to bear, and he opted to have surgery to get ready for the NFL draft.
At Clemson's pro day in March, he ran a 4.68-second 40-yard dash, well below the top times of NFL receiver prospects. Combined with his injury history, he proved too big a risk for teams during the draft. But not too risky for the Chiefs to give him a shot as an undrafted rookie.
How will Ross fit in with Chiefs?
The Chiefs will have a new-look passing attack in 2022 after Tyreek Hill's trade to the Miami Dolphins. They signed JuJu Smith-Schuster as a free agent then drafted Western Michigan's Sky Moore in the second round. Smith-Schuster and Moore will be tasked with attempting to fill the void left behind by one of the NFL's most dangerous playmakers.
Ross fits in as a pure upside play. And there's plenty of upside if he can get healthy, especially in a Chiefs offense helmed by Patrick Mahomes. Ross asked on Saturday for his "1 chance." Now he has it. And it's a good one.