Success follows Ross, from Texas to New York

Aaron Ross is still waiting for it all to sink in.

Coming off a rookie season in which he started 12 games, including the Giants' 17-14 victory in Super Bowl XLII, Ross now has some time to sit back and reflect on all that has taken place in such a short period of time.

But that's a tall order, considering Ross is still trying to fathom how he went from a college national champion and winner of the Jim Thorpe award with the Texas Longhorns to a major contributor on a Super Bowl-winning team with the New York Giants -- all in just over two years time.

"Everything just keeps going," Ross said before taping a segment for NFL Network in Culver City, Calif., this week. "I haven't had a chance to just sit and think about it."

In addition to the two championships and the awards, Ross proposed to his college sweetheart, Sonya Richards, following the 2007 NFL Draft in which he was selected 20th overall. It just so happens that Richards is the women's world record holder in the 400-meter dash.

But don't expect to hear wedding bells anytime in the near future. Richards is currently working out in Texas to prepare for this summer's Olympic Games in China. By the time she returns from Beijing, Ross will be well into the NFL preseason and focused on building on the success he had in a productive rookie season in which he recorded 42 tackles and three interceptions.

"It's in 2010," said Ross of the couple's nuptuals. "It sounds like a long way, but the Olympics are this year, so we can't get married this year. And she said she wanted a year to plan everything. So in 2010 we're going to tie the knot."

For now, Ross is thankful for the much needed break that his body has not had in recent years.

"My biggest thing is just having a chance to rest," he said. "I had to train for my senior season, go through that season, then go to the combine, of course, the senior bowl. So I never had a chance to rest my body. This year I get a chance to rest and be prepared for minicamps and all of that, so I think my body will be better."

The time off also allows Ross the opportunity to see his fiancée in action, despite the fact that Giants training camp and the preseason will prevent him from traveling to China with her.

"It's actually a little better now that I'm in the NFL because in college I had no down time, so I didn't get to go to all of her track meets," Ross said. "I didn't get to go to all the little things that she wanted me to do with her when I was in college, so now I have a chance to do that."

Maybe while Ross is watching Richards run the 400-meter dash he will have a chance to reflect on how it is he got here.

It all began to come together in 2005 -- Ross' junior year -- when the Longhorns shocked all the pundits with a 41-38 Rose Bowl victory over USC in what many consider to be the best National Championship game ever played.

Two years later Ross is touring the talk show circuit, celebrating the Giants' improbable Super Bowl victory over a New England Patriots team that many consider to be one of the best of all-time.

"USC was supposed to be the best college team since sliced bread, just like the Patriots," Ross said. "So to get that 'W' meant a lot."

But as good as things have been for Ross recently, the success did not come without its share of adversity.

Ross began the season as the Giants' nickel back, watching as his team began the season 0-2, giving up a combined 80 points to Dallas and Green Bay.

Of all the adjustments Ross had to make transitioning from college to the NFL, he said those two weeks may have been the most difficult.

"People ask me, 'What was the hardest thing to get used to in the NFL?' and I say all the time it was learning a new position, which was the nickel position," Ross said. "But when I sat down and thought about it, it had to be losing, because at Texas we were not used to losing. When we lost those first two games, I was really thinking, 'Oh, man, what's going on?' "

Against Washington in Week 3, Ross was moved to cornerback in the second half. The change helped the Giants shut out the Redskins in the third and fourth quarters and come back to win from a 17-3 first-half deficit.

The Giants would go on to win eight of their next 10 games, though Ross would not start them all. He was benched for undisclosed disciplinary reasons in the first half of a Week 5 game against the Jets, only to respond in the second half with two interceptions -- one of which he returned for a 43-yard touchdown. Ross added his third interception of the season the following week against the Falcons and the first solo sack of his career in Week 7 vs. the 49ers.

By midseason, Ross and other Giants rookies were playing a major part in the team's success. And it didn't go unnoticed by the team's more established players, like Kawika Mitchell, Antonio Pierce, Sam Madison and Michael Strahan.

"They told us that we were a big part of the team," Ross said. "That meant a lot coming from guys like that."

Ross missed Week 13 due to a hamstring injury and his limited mobility prevented him from starting the following two weeks. After fully recovering, he suffered a separated shoulder while making a tackle in the Giants' divisional playoff matchup with the Cowboys, yet returned to the game to help his team secure a 21-17 win. Ross would go on to play the following week in Green Bay and start in the Super Bowl.

Ross will surely see more adversity in his second season, one in which he knows opposing teams will be looking to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions.

"When I first got there, preseason, it seemed like those first two games I didn't talk to any of the veterans; I was talking to all rookies, and I felt like I wasn't a part of the team yet," Ross said. "I think we got that team unity, and if we keep everybody happy we'll be alright."

This season Ross will return to the Giants locker room not as a rookie fighting for playing time, but as an established contributor likely to start alongside emerging fourth-year cornerback Corey Webster.

In the meantime, Ross might be able to find some time to absorb all that has taken place in such a short time.

"I still can't believe we won the Super Bowl," he said. "I appreciate it, but I don't think it's sunk in. Maybe when we win another one."

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