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Sep 28, 2021

Ross Nominated for Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award

The College Sports Information Directors of America, in association with the Associated Press, the Fiesta Bowl Organization and Mayo Clinic, announced today that Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross was one of three nominees added Tuesday for the 2021 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award. Additional information from award organizers is included below.

NEW YORK, NY. —The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), in association with The Associated Press (AP), the Fiesta Bowl Organization and Mayo Clinic – your source for medical answers, have selected three college football student-athletes—Justyn Ross, a junior wide receiver at Clemson University; Avery Samuels a sophomore offensive lineman at Stetson University; and Corey Sutton a super senior wide receiver at Appalachian State University—as nominees for the 2021 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Ten times during the 2021 college football season, three inspiring student-athletes from all levels of college football who have overcome injury, illness, or other challenges, are recognized as Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Nominees by a panel of writers, editors, and sports information directors from CoSIDA, AP and Touchdown Illustrated. In December, three of the 30 nominees will be chosen as winners of the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award and will be recognized at a special ceremony during the PlayStation® Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, January 1, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  CoSIDA members can nominate football student-athletes until November 1 at

The previously announced nominees include: Terrel Bernard (LB, Baylor); Yohance Burnett (LB, Tulsa); Jack Coan (QB, Notre Dame); Aidan Hutchinson (DE, Michigan); Brian Kearns, Jr (RB, Stonehill College); and John Mitchell (TE, Florida Atlantic).    

Here’s a look at the inspiring stories of this week’s three honorees:

Justyn Ross, a junior wide receiver for Clemson University was one of the most explosive receivers in college football in 2018-19, catching 112 passes for 1865 yards and 17 touchdowns including six receptions for 153 yards and a 74-yard TD as a freshman in the College Football Championship game versus Alabama.  Poised for another big season last year, his 2020 campaign ended in June, when being treated for a “stinger” injury to his neck at spring practice, doctors discovered a congenital fusion condition of his neck and spine that required surgery.  Following surgery and a year of recovery, the Phenix City, Alabama native proved he is still a force, leading the Tigers with 22 receptions and three touchdowns through four games this season.

Avery Samuels, a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman for Stetson University sat out the 2020-21 season as seven members of his family perished from COVID-19.   Following the death of his uncle last April and six other family members in the months that followed, he made the decision to opt-out of the season and spend the time with his family.  Remarkably, despite the family tragedy, the 6 foot 4, 315-pound psychology major returned to the Hatters this summer and has been working his way back onto the field more each week.  This past weekend, the native of Mt. Airy, Pennsylvania played in front of friends and family as Stetson visited Princeton.

Corey Sutton, a super senior wide receiver for App State, who recorded 85 receptions for 1374 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first 22 career games, tore the ACL in his left knee in the ninth game of the 2019 season versus Texas State.  The injury cost him the final three games of the season for the 13-1 Mountaineers including their Sun Belt Championship victory over Troy and their New Orleans Bowl win over UAB.  The 6-foot 3, 205-pound native of Charlotte, NC sat out the entire 2020 season to completely rehab his knee.  Through four games in 2021, he has a league-leading 28 catches, a team-leading 367 yards and two receiving TDs.  This week in the nationally televised win over longtime rival Marshall, he set a career high with 10 receptions for 127 yards and a highlight-reel TD that ranked as the No. 1 play of the day on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Past winners of the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award have included:  2018 – Antwan Dixon (Kent State), Seth Simmer (Dartmouth), Antonio Wimbush (Carson-Newman); 2019 – Jake Luton (Oregon State), Drew Wilson (Georgia Southern), Octavion Wilson (Salisbury University); 2020 – Jarek Broussard (Colorado), Kenneth Horsey (Kentucky) and Silas Kelly (Coastal Carolina).  For a complete list of past honorees and additional details on their remarkable comeback stories, visit; follow via Twitter at @ComebackPlayrFB via the hashtag #MayoClinicCPOY; and on Instagram at @Comeback_Player_CFB.