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Buckeyes had Ross in the bag

And vice versa, as the Gaither star reaches into a sack and pulls out an Ohio State hat and necklace at his announcement.

[Times photo: Ken Helle]
Lydell Ross, left, pulls out a string of "buckeyes," from his surprise bag, letting everyone know he will attend Ohio State University. Gaither teammate Cesar Paz, who will sign with USF, looks on.

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2001


TAMPA -- Until the very end, Lydell Ross kept his college choice as secret as the contents of the Bath & Body Works bag that sat at his feet Wednesday morning in the principal's office at Gaither High School.

As four television camera men and two newspaper photographers recorded the moment, Hillsborough County's all-time rushing leader spoke into three microphones and two tape recorders.

"It's been a long process," Ross said. "It's also been a somewhat confusing process. I've come to my decision. I think it's the best decision for me."

Reaching into the bag, Ross pulled out a necklace strung with buckeyes and a red Ohio State baseball cap. He slipped the necklace around his neck and the cap onto his head.

"I'm going to be a Buckeye," he said.

One month after canceling a visit to Ohio State, two weeks after orally committing to Notre Dame and little more than a week after saying Florida was his No. 1 choice, Ross, 17, signed a national letter of intent to attend Ohio State.

"Coach (Jim) Tressel, the coach at Ohio State, made a big impact on me," Ross said. "I feel he was the best person out of the whole recruiting process out of everybody. He's the one I felt most comfortable with, and he's the one I want to continue my college career with."

Ross' father, Melvin, said he did not know his son's plans until Notre Dame running backs coach Desmond Robinson told him he saw an article in Wednesday's Columbus Dispatch saying Lydell intended to sign with Ohio State.

"I'm disappointed in his decision," Melvin Ross said. "I wanted him to go to Notre Dame, but I'll support him in his decision to go to Ohio State."

Ross canceled a visit to Ohio State after coach John Cooper was fired. The Buckeyes re-entered the picture after Tressel visited Ross' home last week and assured him running backs coach Tim Spencer would be retained.

Ross said Ohio State's I-formation offense and the school's business program also were factors. He plans to study international business.

He hopes to follow in the footsteps of his favorite player, former Ohio State running back and current Tennessee Titans star Eddie George.

Ross wore No. 28 while setting county records for regular-season (2,150), single-season (2,698) and career rushing yards (5,120) at Gaither. George wears No. 27.

"It feels good that I'm going to be there where he was," Ross said.

Ross, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound back, has 4.4-speed in the 40-yard dash. Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming ranks him as the 10th-best running back in the country.

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