As a part-time special teams player in 2007, Jeremy Ross wasn't exactly inundated by interview requests from the media. But that didn't stop him from acting as though he was.
Ross often walked off the practice field past an assembled group of reporters waiting to interview selected players and coaches and say, "Not today, guys. I'm busy."
It drew a good laugh from the press corps and nearby teammates. Which isn't surprising, because there tends to be a lot of laughter when Ross is around.
Ross may be one of the Bears' top comedians, but he's also trying to become one of the team's top wide receivers. He emerged Saturday with two pivotal catches during the game-winning drive at Minnesota and is expected to see significantly more playing time now that Nyan Boateng is out four to six weeks with a broken foot.
"Sometimes things can get too serious, and he'll say something that will loosen us up," fellow receiver Michael Calvin said. "It's always good, because anything that comes out of his mouth is pretty much funny."
When asked to name the funniest player on the team, Ross sheepishly says he is, although he adds linebacker Devin Bishop is close and also puts defensive end Cameron Jordan in the top three. Ross also acknowledges there is a time to be serious but says his fun-loving personality helps his game.
"Sometimes it's good to have fun and relax," he said. "It helps me play better if I'm relaxed and just having
Ross started five games in his first full season as a receiver last year and had 17 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Along with Boateng and Verran Tucker, Ross entered this season as one of Cal's most experienced wideouts.
That, along with the fact that he's now a redshirt junior, might lead one to believe he's taking the game a bit more seriously now.
"We're working on it," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.
Truth be told, Ross isn't quite as partial to levity as meets the eye. Wide receivers coach Kevin Daft said Ross "knows his stuff better than anybody in my meeting room" and takes his craft seriously.
"People that aren't around him enough get the wrong impression," Daft said. "They think he's always joking around. He keeps things light, but he's serious about what he's doing and he cares. J-Ross is very conscientious of every last detail."
When sophomore Marvin Jones emerged as Cal's top receiver through spring practice and fall camp, it pushed Ross down the depth chart behind Boateng and Tucker. Calvin said that also added to Ross' serious side.
"We weren't really happy with how the reps were looking," Calvin said. "He was just serious. It was a side of him I never saw before. He was really handling his business. It surprised me a lot because he jokes around so much. For him to do that, it kind of encouraged all of us to take care of business."
Ross wasn't at the top of the recruiting rankings when he arrived at Cal in 2006, but he's always possessed the combination of speed and strength that translates into potential. He was a top sprinter at Laguna Creek High-Elk Grove and ran the fastest 40-yard time (4.39 seconds) at a prep combine after his junior year.
"He has a lot of potential," Calvin said. "(Saturday) is just scratching the surface of what he's capable of doing."
Ross should get first crack as Cal's No. 3 receiver now that Boateng is out, and the Bears are hopeful he can build off his three-catch, 73-yard performance against Minnesota.
"I'm trying to get better at knowing there is a time for everything," Ross said. "There's a time to joke around, and there's a time to focus and handle your business. Sometimes I do a good job of that, sometimes I joke around when it's the time to be serious. But I love to have fun. I love to joke around. I love to make things exciting and fun."