Ross was delisted by North Melbourne at the end of 2011 after playing 14 games over four injury-interrupted seasons.
He joined the Kangaroos’ VFL affiliate Werribee full-time, winning the Liston Medal as the league’s best and fairest player in 2012, and following up with another strong season this year.
Handed a chance to revive his career by the Hawks at Wednesday’s rookie draft, the 25-year-old said he now knew what was required to succeed at the top level.
“I was pretty immature in my early days at North Melbourne, and it probably took me too long to realise what it took,” Ross told Sportsday radio.
“You get some injuries, and before you know it, it is all over.
“I was pretty devastated when it happened, and really I didn’t realise what I was missing out on, and what effort it takes to take that opportunity.
“I’ve felt the lows, and I’m so grateful to get a second opportunity, because not many people do.
“I’m looking forward to putting my best foot forward.”
The midfielder said two years in the VFL system had changed his outlook and approach.
“When I went to Werribee full-time, it fast-tracked my maturity and my leadership,” Ross said.
“And that’s something that I just didn’t have when I was an 18-year-old kid coming out of high school thinking I had the world at my feet.
“I thought I was just going to make it in the AFL and get all this money and all this fame, and play 100 or 200 games.
“But it doesn’t work like that, and I took too long to realise that.
“But I think I’ve matured a lot in my time at Werribee, especially in the last year with a leadership role, and I’m hoping I can transfer that to my new chance.”
Ross will provide the Hawks with an immediate source of midfield depth.
He said he would also be capable of playing at half-forward or half-back, should the opportunity present.
“I’m obviously on the rookie list, so I’m just going there to put my best foot forward,” he said.
“Put my head down, work hard and be there if that opportunity arises to hop onto the senior list – and not let it slip this time.”