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Chiefs’ Shane Buechele: ‘Awesome’ to see Justyn Ross score touchdown

Kansas City’s much-hyped wide receiver cleared a major hurdle in his unlikely path to the NFL.

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Chiefs may have lost their preseason opener to the New Orleans Saints 26-24 in a bizarre fashion — but many fans saw exactly what they had tuned in to see.

Going into the game, the biggest story might have been the debut of wide receiver Justyn Ross — and his long, strange trip to game action in red and gold.

The Clemson product burst onto the college prospect scene as a freshman in the 2018 College Football Playoff. Facing Notre Dame (and then Alabama), Ross totaled a combined 12 catches for 301 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers were crowned champions.

After a solid — but less spectacular — sophomore year, it appeared Ross might never play football again. He missed the 2020 season after a recently-discovered spinal condition required fusion surgery. Returning in 2021, he played in 10 games for Clemson, but was noticeably limited by a foot injury.

The one-time star was not selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. He signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent — but an additional surgery for his foot injury landed him on injured reserve for his rookie season.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs OTA Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After returning for this season’s camp, the Chiefs have heavily hyped Ross’ moments in practice through social media. Then on Sunday, his unprecedented path to the NFL took a major turn as he finally suited up for Kansas City.

Ross appeared wide open in the second quarter as the Chiefs faced first-and-goal from the Saints’ one-yard line — only to see veteran receiver Richie James catch the touchdown from backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Midway through the third quarter, however, his moment finally came as third-string quarterback Shane Buechele found Ross for a 15-yard score.

Ross would finish the game with a pair of catches for 29 yards.

Speaking after the game, Buechele complimented Ross on how well he ran the play.

“He did a great job of running the route and just executing the play,” said the veteran quarterback. “I was happy for him. It was awesome.”

Given his story, Ross’ teammates knew this was not a typical third-quarter preseason touchdown.

“He did a great job of executing — and both of us being on the same page,” Buechele reiterated. “It was the reaction after that we were all happy about. Seeing the smile on his face. Seeing all the hard work he’s put in from all his injuries — tough times for him. For him to be out on the field trusting his ability and then just executing on the play, it was awesome. It was good to see.”

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

In his postgame comments, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid noted the most important detail of Ross’ performance.

“That’s a good part of the story,” Reid said of the receiver’s perseverance. “And he came out healthy — that’s a positive thing.”

In typical fashion, the head coach declined to draw a major conclusion about Ross’s afternoon.

“I want to take a look at the tape,” said Reid. “In general, I thought the guys did a decent job in there. I know he had the touchdown — and that was a good play. As a whole, I’ve got to see all the work that he did.”

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