(Note: This is part of a series of stories on legendary Georgia Bulldogs.)
KENNESAW – Frank Ros is a captain in every sense of the word. This extends beyond the time he was making calls while manning the middle of Erk Russell’s defense on Georgia’s 1980 national championship team. No, even in the nearly 37 years since.
Now 58 and joyously living in early retirement, Ros has continued to take his role as captain seriously. He’s the main point of contact for every member of that 1980 team and quite a few others who were playing ball for the Dogs right before and right after that. He keeps all their names and addresses and phone numbers carefully collated on a spreadsheet on his home computer. He can call up every one of the Bulldogs he knows right there in an instant.
Everyone except Jeff Sanchez, that is. Can’t find him. Nobody has been able to. Anybody who knows whereabouts of the former star defensive back from California, please contact Ros.
Nevertheless, those contacts have helped Ros organize and officiate the 1980 team’s 10th-, 15th-, 25th-, 30th- and 35th-year reunions.
‘He’s my big brother’
“I’m not tooting Frank’s horn — he’s my big brother — but Frank and I are together a lot and one thing that’s really, really unique is he has kept that team together,” said Herschel Walker, the star tailback on that 1980 squad. “If anything is going on, the guys all call Frank and he gets everybody together. My hat is off to him. It’s a tough, tough job, organizing everything. I think that’s what’s so great about that team, is we’re still together. And it’s because of Frank.”
Such organizational and leadership skills translated well into the business world for Ros. He retired as an executive vice president for Hispanic strategies for the Coca-Cola Co. That ended a long and successful career in sales and marketing.
It’s that side of Ros of which most Georgia fans are not familiar. Not sales and marketing, but his Spanish heritage.
You’d never know it by his accent. It comes with a thick Southern drawl inherent to someone from Taylors, S.C., which is from where Ros came to UGA. But Ros is actually Francisco Perales Ros V, a first-generation Spanish immigrant. His family came to America as political refugees when he was just 5 years old.
Frank’s father, Francisco Austuriano Ros IV, was imprisoned for two years in Barcelona after he created a newsletter for the Catalonian people during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. He would go on to become a mechanical engineer and would eventually come to the U.S. to introduce and service textile machines for a Spanish company whose clientele included North Carolina’s Burlington Industries.
Greenville, S.C., used to host an annual international textile fair, and that’s how the Ros family came to settle in that area. But it took a hunger strike and a bunch of other drama by Ros’s father to gain clearance to permanently relocate and move his family to America. Before that they’d spend months and, at one point, a year apart.
Rode ‘The Independence’ to the USA
Fittingly, they came to America on ship named “The Independence” and docked in New York City.
“I remember that morning,” Ros recalled. “It was November, so it was cold, and Dad came to our room and said, ‘get your coats on. I want to show you something.’ We went up to the deck and you could see the statue of Liberty. Literally it was so close you felt like you could touch it. We docked there and flew to Greenville. We were probably the first Spanish family in Greenville.”
Ros’ father would end up as president and CEO of the company that brought him to America and he would eventually found his own company. Ros actually worked for his father before they sold the business. He’d hold sales and marketing positions at two other companies before finally coming to work for Coke.
Ros’ father died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1989 at the age of 59, just four years after selling their company.
Nine years later, Ros finally achieved something they’d only dreamed about when they crossed the Atlantic so long ago. On June 9, 1998, Ros was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. He was 39 years old.
“Greatest day of my life besides my marriage and birth of my kids,” said Ros, who raised two sons, Frank VI and Bryce, with his wife, Jan, a former Miss Auburn.
Well, Ros admitted, there was at least one other extra special day. On Jan. 1, 1981, his Georgia Bulldogs became the undefeated and undisputed national champions of college football.
“A total team, that’s the best way to put it,” Ros says proudly. “Even today when I correspond with my teammates, when I write the word ‘team’ it’s always in capital letters. Because we really epitomized what a team is. What I mean is every player that season, for some reason, accepted their role. A lot of times they might have lost their starting job and their role might’ve been to be a gunner on a punt team. You may not be happy about it, but everybody on that team just embraced their role and I think that’s what made it successful.”
That, and a captain named Ros.