Column: Fans missed NU’s own John Wayne

Column: Fans missed NU’s own John Wayne

Picture in your mind, Northeastern fan, a Husky athletic star.

You might see All-American point guard Jose Juan Barea blazing down the court, preparing himself for a quick jump shot or a picture-perfect pass into the paint.

You might see Northeastern defenseman Steve Birnstill, commanding the blue line, his eyes trained on the goal and his hockey stick dictating the flow and energy of the offense in front of him.

You might see Shawn James in front of the basket, receiving a pass from Barea with ease or ready to launch himself for another record-breaking block.

You might see soccer goaltender Sergio Saccoccio, his body fully prepared for the next shot, barking orders to the defensemen in front of him.

You might see Laura Chmielewski with a pole vault in her hands, ready for the sprint to the pole and another chance at history.

You might see Derek Anderson prepared for another shot put or discus throw, with a record-breaking toss imminent.

Too bad we never saw Dan Ross, quite possibly the best of them all.

It doesn’t really take long to understand the impact of the former football star on this campus. Whether from Alaska, Arizona or the Greater Boston area, the outpouring of memory for the gifted tight end and former NFL player in recent weeks has been a sign that Ross, who passed away at 49 of a heart attack May 16, was easily one of NU’s greatest (and most fondly remembered) stars.

Take the stirring words of longtime NU Sports Information Director Jack Grinold, writing after attending Ross’ funeral:

“We had lost our John Wayne, our hero, and we lost him at the terribly young age of 49. It seemed it was only weeks ago that he appeared in our Parsons Field press box to be an analyst for Husky radio. Dan Ross was a man who filled any doorway he entered and immediately drew the attention of all inside.”

If there’s anyone on this campus who can claim he’s seen it all, from Ross to Jim Calhoun to Reggie Lewis and beyond, it’s Grinold. Grinold’s words project a graceful and once-in-a-lifetime figure in Ross.

How often is it a Northeastern star is playing in the world’s biggest football game – the Super Bowl – let alone setting a record? How often is it a Northeastern star is one of New England’s best football players? How often is it a Northeastern star has his name in the NFL record books?

Northeastern athletics certainly has a proud and well-followed tradition. In a historic city like Boston, and with a large group of alumni, Husky athletics history is never ignored. Ross, a second-round NFL draft pick, is without question the greatest athletic star in the school’s history.

Just examine his career r

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