He was beloved, revered, respected. A player who built relationships with his teammates. Even the self-deprecating Gross couldn't hold back the emotions when he saw their faces in the crowd at his retirement press conference on Wednesday.
But the fun-loving Panthers weren't about to let this be a day of sadness. Center
After Gross' closing remark came a surprise appearance from a Kalil-led barbershop quartet. The group belted out a hysterical "Happy Trails" number that left those previously in tears laughing out loud.
"Jordan and I were known for doing that stuff, and I just felt like it was fitting to end it on that for him," Kalil said. "It sounded a lot better in rehearsal. It was hard to do it, because I was getting a little emotional. Hopefully, it didn't sound too terrible."
Said Gross: "That was awesome."
But jokes and pranks aside, several Panthers spoke about how honored they were to have Gross as their teammate.
Here is some of what they said:
Center Ryan Kalil: "I'm trying to put all this inside for now. I'm sure it will hit later. I'm just really happy for him. First and foremost, you think of his leadership. He was just such an incredible leader and he commands so much respect from the players. He's been a huge influence on my career. He's such a great guy, and I'm lucky to be able to have him as a friend."
Right tackle Byron Bell: "He means a lot to me personally – and not even about football. There's been days where I had personal issues, and I could just call him at any time and he'd come to my house and pick me up. This is a man with a wife and kids. He was a big brother. He helped me throughout my career. He taught me 'never too high, never too low. I'll never forget that you have to be even-keeled through the good and the bad. Gross has been very instrumental in my life and I'm thankful to have had him as a teammate.
"It's going to be a little awkward in the locker room and in the offensive line room. We would always talk about the looks we were getting from defensive ends, and I'm going to miss that. We're all going to miss him."
Wide receiver Steve Smith: "It's going to be different. But it's a part of life. It's a part of growing old. Your buddies move on. We've had multiple conversations about this day. It was hard to hear. It was sad.
"He's always going to be a captain. He's always going to be one of the greatest Panthers. I can say he's my friend, and that's the best part."
Guard Travelle Wharton: "You think it is going to last forever. This is going to be a huge void to fill – not just the football player but the person. He was the voice of the locker room. He means a lot. He meant accountability. He was all about competing at a high level. I'm proud of him going out the way he wanted."
Head coach Ron Rivera: "There's a lightheartedness to what Jordan brought. He's the consummate pro. I'm going to truly miss our conversations. At least once a day I could always count on talking about something with him. I will constantly miss his presence and who he is."