You had to go the hospital in December; how did that experience change you?
Aaron Ross: I feel like the Lord has put so many obstacles in my life for me to learn from before I move on to another level of my life, and I felt like that was just one of the few things that He put in front of me for me to learn from. Basically, I learned to set my priorities straight. I was trying to please too many people, knowing that I was coming to train in Arizona. I was trying to spend time with my mom, basically my family, my girl, and then with my friends, and then I was up all night, and then I had to go out of town here and there for banquets and whatever, and then finals that week. I feel like I just needed to ... I've learned that I need to put my priorities straight and never let my body just get overexhausted like that again.
How would you describe your Senior Bowl experience?
Aaron Ross: That was great. That was a great experience. I had a chance to meet pretty much all the scouts and all the coaches that were there. And to be coached by some guys that are already coaches in the league, that's truly an honor and to go against the best of the best, that's something that you dream of as a football player. That was a humbling, but yet great experience.
Did you notice a difference in the coaching you got at the Senior Bowl compared to your years in college?
Aaron Ross: Coming from the University of Texas, Coach (Duane) Akina, he's a great defensive back coach. He pretty much got me to where I'm at right now. The only big difference in the coaching, I would say the practices were more intense. It was more upbeat. The only thing they really kept telling me was, stay lower, stay lower. Other than that, I felt like Coach Akina, he did such a wonderful job with us as a secondary, there weren't too many things that coaches had to coach out of us.
Can you talk about what it was like to win the Jim Thorpe Award? i>
Aaron Ross: Honestly, going into the season I didn't think I was going to be the Thorpe Award winner because I wasn't even on the list. The 33 players that made the list, I wasn't one of the ones on the list. So to win it - to make the finals first of all - I was honored just by making the final with Reggie (Nelson) and Leon (Hall), and then to win it over those guys, that was really mind- blowing for me. I actually went to Oklahoma City Sunday and Monday to accept the award, and that was a great, great, great experience that I'm really happy about.
What did you learn from former Texas teammate Michael Huff?
Aaron Ross: The biggest thing I learned from Huff is to stay humble. He's a very humble guy. If you didn't know he was Michael Huff, you wouldn't know that he was now a millionaire and wouldn't know that he had all this success that he had at the University of Texas. The biggest thing was just being humble and staying true to who you are. We had the same coaches, so pretty much everything Coach Akina taught him, Coach Akina taught me as well. As far as moving on to the next level, he just told me to be who I am, don't let things push me in the wrong direction, just stay humble, stay grounded and everything will work out.
One of the things scouts like about you is your ability to stay cool even if you get beat. How do you manage that?
Aaron Ross: Like I said, I'm a guy that's battle-tested. I've had so many things that the Lord has put in front of me that I can stay focused. It's not easy to rattle me. Just for instance, the Iowa game, the bowl game, the guy caught a little hitch route and took it to the house on me and Coach Akina, he tells me all the time, some guys will let that get under their skin, but I felt like it was early in the game and I had to make up for that. Keep playing, it's still a long game. Just go make a play, don't let it happen again. Something's going to happen. You can't stop that. They're on scholarship just as well as I am, so they're going to make plays. I just have to limit them.
How do you deal with all the rules that seem to favor receivers and make it tougher on cornerbacks?
Aaron Ross: Basically, work on your footwork. That's the biggest thing, especially since you can't put your hands on a guy, just try to beat him out of his route. Do a lot of studying of film and see his tendencies, read the quarterback, just get a step on him before he gets a step on you.
What's the key to playing good bump-and-run defense?
Aaron Ross: In the bump-and-run, you want to get your hands on the guy, stay in front of him. Once he comes out of his break, just beat him out of there.
What part of your game do you feel you need to continually improve on?
Aaron Ross: Speed. As a DB or wide receiver, you always want to impress the scouts and coaches with speed, overall speed. That's why I worked out at API – to work on my speed and to get to the full potential that I can get it to. And, of course, once again, I'm a guy that's real big on technique coming from Coach Akina, so just getting my pedaling and everything down so once I'm out of my break they can see everything is fluid.
You have done a lot of punt returning. Is it difficult to go back to playing cornerback after returning a punt?
Aaron Ross: It's not a challenge at all. That's my way of playing offense. Coming in, I was an offensive guy. When I had to go to DB, punt return was a way that I could get my hands on the ball even more and run with it. I love to punt-return and make guys miss. I watched Deion growing up and that's what I try to do. Deion and Barry Sanders.
Along those lines, are you ready for the possibility that your major contributions as an NFL rookie might come on special teams?
Aaron Ross: Oh yeah, special teams is big. That's how me and Michael Griffin made our name at the University of Texas when we got there is special teams. Anything I can do to contribute to the team and just get on the field, I'm willing to do. And special teams was that when I was at UT to finally get on the field. If I have to play special teams, I'm going to do it 110 percent.
What current NFL player would you compare yourself to?
Aaron Ross: I would have to say Cedric Griffin. He really got my mind frame in wanting to hit a guy. As far as being physical and never giving up, I would have to give it to Cedric. I want to model my game after him. And just covering a guy, you can't pass up on Deion Sanders, but right now Champ Bailey is really holding it down.
What will the NFL team that drafts Aaron Ross be getting?
Aaron Ross: I can give you four or five things. I'm a competitor; I'm driven; I'm going to back to this, I'm battle-tested, so I won't get rattled too easy; I'm blessed; and I'm personable. I can get along with just about anybody on the team.