You can't teach size.
That sports maxim is true, which is why an NBA team scours every potential big man on multiple continents and why 12 different teams showed up at Virginia-Lynchburg defensive tackle Lakendrick Ross' pro day. He's got more size than most.
Ross is one of four candidates for the 2014 NFL Supplemental Draft, which is being held on Thursday. While three other players will also be eligible -- New Mexico wide receiver Chase Clayton, North Carolina linebacker Darius Lipford, SMU running back Traylon Shead -- Ross is the 6'4, 366-pound prize.
"Lakendrick is the kind of kid that if someone can bring him and has a little time to develop him, with his size and athleticism, he could be an All-Pro down the road," his agent Glen Lansky said. "But it's going to take some time. But he just turned 21, so he's got that time."
The Supplemental Draft is the back door into the league for players without college eligibility remaining for one reason or another. Generally the players have spotty records on and/or off the field, stories to be checked, questions to be answered. For Ross, the story reads like Michael Oher, without the first-round ending, and it's the reason that his nickname is "Blindside."
"I've been in group homes and foster homes all of my life, since I was 11 or 12," said Ross. "I'm originally from North Carolina and my mom passed when I was 12. She had six kids and when she passed, no one in our family would take us or let us live with them. So we came up to Virginia Beach and I stayed with my aunt. When I stayed with her, there was abuse in the household. With the abuse at home and me being up all night, I guess it was affecting my ability in school. I got a counseling appointment and they started seeing whips on my chest and my face. Then they started doing investigations and stuff and they found abuse in the home and then that's when I was placed in the group home."
From there, Ross jumped from group home to group home, moving from his childhood in North Carolina to several group homes in Virginia and even Savannah, Georgia. As a young boy, he didn't want to be away from his home state and ran away from several group homes. Even once, he caught a bus back to North Carolina, only to be taken by the police to his first stint in a juvenile detention center.
"I just kept running away," said Ross. "I'd ran away from the one in Virginia Beach and caught a bus to North Carolina. The police had stopped me down there and put me into a detention center. It was just like jail where you're in a cell all day. I was there for three months, and then the police from Virginia Beach came and got me and sent me to another group home in Petersburg, Virginia. I stayed there for about six months and then went to two more group homes in Savannah, Georgia. I stayed there for about a year."
Those constant changes are only a few of the 11 total group homes and foster situations that Ross has lived in. In addition, Ross has done well to avoid the negative circumstances his family members have fallen into.
"My cousins and brothers are all in prison," he said. "My sister's in prison for life right now for murder. My brother's in jail for dealing drugs."
"Stand up and put your arm up"
Lakendrick's size is what stands out most to pro scouts, but they weren't the first to notice. A minister-turned-coach saw the boy sitting alone in church one day and asked him the question that would lead to Lakendrick's domination in multiple sports.
"I was in a foster home and they were very religious, going to church almost every Sunday," said Ross. "There's this dude named Byron George who was a preacher and he ran a recreation center. He's also the supervisor, but he was a minister also. I was very antisocial then. I wouldn't talk to anyone. Everyone in the church would sit in the middle, but I was the only kid who sat on the side. I was also really big kid, bigger than anyone else.
"After church one day, he said, 'Stand up and put your arm up.' I did that and he said, 'You can play basketball on my team.' He told me to come out to the recreation center and I played. I made all-city."
From the basketball court to the football field, Ross has showcased an impressive athleticism to go along with his tremendous frame. He had 19 tackles and four sacks in six games in his only year at Virginia University of Lynchburg. Ross earned looks from Division I programs and committed to Morgan State, but he was academically ineligible.
When Ross found out that he was academically ineligible for the upcoming season, he filed the proper paperwork with the NFL to enter the Supplemental Draft. He also put together a pro day for scouts to check him out. All of this happened within seven days.
"He moves around pretty well. He wasn't training," said Lansky. "I mean, he just found out a week ago that he was going to go into this draft, so he didn't train for everything but still went through the testing for all of the scouts. So the numbers weren't where they would be if he'd went through a 16-week training period, of course. But he moved around real well."
Ross believed his pro day went well, where he measured an 83.5 inch wingspan. He also ran an unofficial 1.81 in the 10-yard split and between a 5.4 and 5.5 in the 40-yard dash, per Damond Talbot of NFL Draft Diamonds.
"I've had pro dreams all of my life," said Ross. "I know a lot about the game, and I know that I have the physical size and the mindset to play at any level. I mean, I played one year and within that year, I was the defensive player of the year and led the team in sacks."
A reason to be proud
Now on the verge of making his professional football dreams come true, Ross says he's pleased to be where he is. While he faces an uphill climb to be drafted or to actually make an NFL roster, he's certainly faced much more difficult situations before. If anything, it's another rung on a ladder he's been climbing since adolescence.
"I'm feeling good after all that I've been through," said Ross. "I was just thinking that last night. I go online and see all these things that people have written up. When I was younger, I never got what I wanted. My brothers and cousins were always smarter. They're the ones who got what they wanted. I never did.
"Today was the first day I got my first pair of tennis shoes, my first pair of workout tennis shoes," he continues. "I got 'em from a dude that used to play for the Cardinals. I was just thinking that I never got what I wanted back then, but now I'm proud of myself."