Playing with Purpose

San Francisco 49er and USD alumnus Ross Dwelley on the football field


The heat comes early this time of year in Reno. Fleeting morning cool is quickly overwhelmed by simmering waves of Northern Nevada sun rising over the foothills to the east, causing early risers and all-nighters alike to beat a hasty retreat to the air-conditioned indoor comforts “The Biggest Little City in the World” has on offer.

“It got over a 100 [degrees] a couple of times last week,” Ross Dwelley ’18 (BS/BA) notes. “You’ve got to get out early to get a run in, but honestly, I don’t mind the heat. It makes you focus more on the task at hand.”

For Dwelley, that task is braving the baking elements in order to get in the best physical shape possible in advance of his third season as a tight-end with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. The 16-game schedule can be a grind to even the hardiest of competitors, and Dwelley has learned the give-and-take between pushing himself and completely stretching his limits during the offseason. Dwelley can’t wait to get started this fall..

“It’s such a dream to be able to do something you’re passionate about for a living,” he says. “Football means so much to me, and I know that I’m capable of getting better. That’s why I don’t take this opportunity for granted. I know I haven’t hit my ceiling.”

To better understand how far Dwelley has come to achieve his dream of playing in the NFL — and subsequently becoming the first Torero to appear in a Super Bowl in January 2020 — you need to go back to the day he made the fateful decision to commit to playing just one sport, full-time. That was no easy choice.

“It was my junior year in high school, and I was playing first base for the Boston Red Sox junior travelling team,” Dwelley recalls. “I put up some pretty good numbers playing for them, but I just really missed football. At that point, I had to decide which way I wanted to go, and I figured I wanted to play the game I had the most fun playing. I know it’s not that easy for everyone to make that decision, but I just trusted my gut, and it’s worked out since.”

Dwelley’s sterling performance his senior season at Oakridge High School piqued the interest of then-University of San Diego Offensive Coordinator Christian Taylor, who made the trek north to the Sacramento suburb of El Dorado Hills to watch the talented tight-end’s on-field exploits firsthand. Dwelley appreciated Taylor’s advice on how to improve his game, and accepted an invite to visit USD on a recruiting trip. After one look at Alcalá Park’s stunning beauty and location, Dwelley knew he had found his home away from home.

“I’m not sure how anyone could visit the USD campus and not want to go to school there,” he says. “I walked around a bit with the coaches, and was ready to sign a letter [of commitment] right then and there.”

Five successful years and an Industrial and Systems engineering degree later, Dwelley cites his time at USD as pivotal in helping pave his path to the NFL “Being a football player and an engineering major taught me a lot about time management, and how to do everything with a purpose. I try to do everything with a purpose; playing football, working out, watching film on opposing teams. My time at USD helped me find that purpose, and I’m using it every day.” — Mike Sauer

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