John Ross bonds with Bengals' Lewis, would love to play for him

A little hometown history goes a long way with John Ross.

It's one foundation for his close friendship with Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson: both grew up in Long Beach, Calif. He's close with two fellow draft prospects, Jeremy McNichols of Boise State and JuJu Smith-Schuster of USC, for the same reason.

So it should come as no surprise that Ross had a memorable meeting with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who has a little Long Beach history of his own.

"I would love to play for him," Ross said. "I liked all the coaches I met through this process, but I had a longer talk with coach Lewis than probably anyone else, just getting a feel for the way he goes about things."

Lewis coached linebackers at Long Beach State for two years in the 1980s. That's not exactly growing up there -- Lewis is from the Pittsburgh area -- but it was enough for he and Ross to strike up a rapport. Lewis, in fact, recruited some players from Long Beach Jordan High, where Ross starred nearly three decades later. Lewis even reminded Ross of Washington coach Chris Petersen.

"Honestly, he gives me coach Petersen vibes. The way they build a brotherhood in their locker rooms, and the way everyone's treated with respect, it sounded familiar," Ross said. "He's got an open-door policy just like coach Petersen. Anyone can come to him. He talked about playing fast and playing with toughness, and those are things coach Petersen talked about before every game."

The Bengals were Ross' fifth and final visit, along with the Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans. Ross thought he was finished with visits after seeing the Titans facility, but the Bengals called "last minute" to bring him in. Due to shoulder surgery that followed his pro day workout, he conducted no private workouts with teams. But between game film of his breakout season at Washington, and his record-breaking combine performance, Ross feels as though he's shown more than enough.

"I felt wanted with every team I went to see. They all felt like I could stretch the field and be a deep threat in their offense," Ross said. "I really didn't get a sense that any of them liked me more than another, but I wouldn't be surprised if I got drafted by any of them."

The Bengals, and the coach who reminds Ross of Chris Petersen, have the No. 9 overall pick.

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