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Coast Guard tight end Matt Ross has Division III football in his blood

New London — Matt Ross has had an affinity for Division III college football since long before he arrived at the Coast Guard Academy, being introduced to it shortly after he was born, in fact.

Ross's grandfather was longtime University of Mount Union assistant coach Clyde Ross, who was on staff for 12 of the Purple Eagles' 13 Division III national championships. Mount Union won consecutive Division III titles from 1996-98. Matt was born in 2000. Clyde once again assisted Mount Union to a three-peat from 2000-02.

Matt Ross is Coast Guard's 6-foot-1, 225-pound starting tight end, leading the Bears (2-4) with 21 catches for 154 yards. Coast Guard plays at 1 p.m. Saturday at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

"I saw him coach for many years. I went to his games as a young kid and I would watch him and thought, like, everybody had a grandfather that was a football coach and was winning national championship almost every year. He kind of just inspires me to do football."

Matt would attend football camp at Mount Union, located in Alliance, Ohio, and Clyde had him play up a level, catching passes from high school quarterbacks when he was just in middle school.

"So I was catching balls from high school quarterbacks that were pretty good going to Mount Union's football camp," Ross said. "I sucked at first. I couldn't catch a single ball. Through hard times of going to his camp and playing with the high schoolers, I kind of learned how to catch the balls from good quarterbacks.

"(The other coaches) knew who I was. 'This is Clyde's grandson.' They would say, 'C'mon, Clyde's grandson, you can do better than that.'"

Clyde died on Aug. 16 at the age of 89 at his home in Damascus, Ohio. He coached special teams at Mount Union for 19 seasons and also served in the U.S. Navy as a Beach Jumper, a unit which preceded the Navy SEALS. Matt's grandmother, Babs, still lives in Ohio and watches the Coast Guard games online. Mount Union is wearing a special decal on its helmets this season which reads simply, "Clyde."

"I think the biggest thing he taught me was blocking," said Ross of his grandfather. "He was a defensive end for Southern Illinois, but he also came in at tight end. He would talk about just manhandling the opposing team. I think the techniques he taught me from a young age, that's like one of the biggest things that stuck with me.

"I do like blocking. That's half my job. I'm trying to develop my blocking skills as a tight end right now."

Ross, the son of Shawn and Libby Ross, hails from Tullahoma, Tennessee. He played at Naval Prep during the 2019 season, although he was moved to linebacker out of necessity. His freshman season a year ago featured just one Coast Guard game due to COVID-19.

Ross is solid over the middle — "he's taken some pretty hellacious shots; he took a couple and you're like, 'Oh, God, I hope he gets up,'" Coast Guard coach C.C. Grant said.

He has at least one catch in all six Coast Guard games, with a career-best six receptions for 30 yards in a 29-24 loss to Anna Maria on Sept. 25 and a career-high 44 yards on five catches in a 33-6 win over Nichols on Sept. 18.

Ross follows in a long line of talented Coast Guard tight ends, including Brian Whisler, a third team All-American in 2003, and Casey Paris, the 6-foot-3 Texan who co-holds the Bears' record for touchdown catches in a game with three in 2012.

"One thing we have to remember, he didn't get a freshman year, so he's still developing," Grant said. "I think he can get bigger and more physical next year. Generally when we've been a good running team, we've had a good blocking tight end. Those two things go hand in hand.

"When we've had good tight ends, we've used them in a big time way. It goes back to Brian Whisler, Casey Paris and guys like that. Matt is along those same lines. But I have to keep reminding myself, Brian Whisler and Casey Paris, those guys really excelled when they were juniors and seniors."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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