Senior cornerback Boise Ross is the boisterous, effervescent leader of the University at Buffalo defense.
He also has a quiet side. Ross takes to knitting as one of his hobbies. Knitting, as in scarves, mittens and wool hats.
“In eighth grade I was in a camp group called Sequoia, and that was one of the things that we did,” Ross says. “Ever since then I’ve been attracted to it.”
“I just learned how to knit a hat,” Ross said. “Before that it was scarves and mittens, not anything too crazy. I do a lot of blue and white. I do a lot of orange, too, because my mom likes orange. It’s relaxing.”
Ross is anything but relaxed when he puts a on a uniform. He is UB’s energizer bunny in practice, and he is the Bulls’ best defensive player.
Ross ranked fifth in the nation last year in passes defensed. He made third-team all-Mid-American Conference. Entering the season, he arguably is UB’s best pro prospect. He has size, at 6-foot, 195 pounds. He has ball-skills and play-making ability, partly because he started his college career at receiver.
Ross was UB’s No. 1 receiving option entering his sophomore year, but he was switched to cornerback early in 2014 due to a dire need at the position.
“He was recruited here as a receiver, and he has a natural feel for the receiver position,” said UB cornerbacks coach Taiwo Onatolu. “He understands routes. He has great anticipation. That’s what really helps him. He has good length and ball skills. He knows patterns. In the receiver’s first two or three steps, he can figure out what they’re doing, and that’s where his anticipation comes in.”
Ross’ emotional leadership carries over to his teammates.
“I remember at Kent State last year, we were down 11 in the fourth quarter, and it looked pretty bad,” Onatolu said. “And he was still running up and down the sidelines telling everyone we’re going to win. He truly believes it, and he backs it up on the field.”
“I’ve been coaching for 10 years, and he’s one of the most jovial, high-energy guys I’ve ever been around,” Onatolu said.
UB coach Lance Leipold concurs.
“I've never seen a guy with more energy each and every day and passion about what he's doing on the football field,” Leipold said.
Actually, Ross says he knows one person who matched his enthusiasm –- UB defensive end Solomon Jackson, who died in February after collapsing during a team conditioning workout. Ross and Jackson were roommates last season.
“Day in and day out in our workouts, I put that on myself to have energy or get my teammates riled up,” Ross said. “It’s never a dull moment with me, and he was the same way. Him being that way, I feel like he impressed that upon me, to give off that energy that everybody needs.”
Ross had 18 pass breakups last year and two interceptions. His 39-yard interception return for a touchdown was the go-ahead score in UB’s win at Florida Atlantic.
Quarterbacks might not throw his way as much this year, but Ross says there’s room for improvement. He was susceptible to a few double-moves last year. And he thinks UB’s defense will play better together in the second year of coordinator Brian Borland’s system.
“Coach Borland is a guru at my position,” Ross said. “He knows a lot about cornerback, and I pick his brain as much as I can on the little things. Getting my feet right, working on my steps and my timing, keeping my eyes focused where they need to be, whether it’s on the quarterback or on the player in front of me. All those things have to improve for me to have a better season.”
Ross’ knitting game is on the rise, too.
“I made my mom some real nice mittens, and the thing so hard about it was I put five different colors in it,” he said. “Now I’m starting to get really good at it, and I’m trying to find new ways to keep me busy.”
The busier Ross is on the field, the better it figures to be for UB’s defense.