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  1. #1
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    Mar 2001
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    Arrow Building from adversity

    Building from adversity
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - How many times have you driven by an accident, only to notice the police, an ambulance, or another motorist already on the scene?

    But what if that weren't the case? And what if the vehicle in question was on fire?

    That situation confronted Rams tight end Cameron Cleeland in late May in Mount Vernon, Wash.

    "It was on a back road right next to my house, in my hometown," Cleeland said. "The young man had flown through a stop sign at an intersection, and hit a tree, probably going 50-plus miles an hour. I was the first one on the scene."

    Cleeland's wife, Mindy, was in the car and immediately called 911.

    "The car was on fire," Cleeland said. "He was trapped inside. I tried to help him out as best I could, tried to get him out of there."

    Cleeland threw dirt on the driver, Timothy Roth, in an effort to douse the fire. He tried to keep Roth talking. Finally, another motorist arrived with a fire extinguisher, and then the fire department.

    But all those efforts went for naught.

    "He ended up passing away that night," Cleeland said. "The fire department - we all tried to help him. He made it to the hospital, and his family had an opportunity to say goodbye before he passed away. It was really hard. Hard dealing with."

    Roth was 22. The events of that day, May 23, caused nightmares for Cleeland, a seven-year NFL veteran from the University of Washington. And a shift in perspective.

    "It's something that will be with me forever, watching something like that," Cleeland said. "You don't realize how lucky you are and how fortunate we are to have what we have. Even when you're out here (at practice), I try to tell myself, 'Man, I'm lucky that I'm out here.'

    "Because you just never know. I consider myself a Christian. The Lord has a plan. Your time is when your time is, and you've just got to take advantage of it."

    With that in mind, Cleeland has approached his second Rams training camp with renewed vigor. He has missed the last three practice days in Macomb with a hamstring injury, but had looked impressive early in camp.

    "He's a very talented guy, and he's got terrific receiving skills," coach Mike Martz said. "The one thing that he was inconsistent on, and that he's completely established out here, is the physical aspect of it. He has been outstanding (blocking) in the running game.

    "I'm a little disappointed he's gotten injured, but we'll get him back. It doesn't sound like it's anything significant."

    For a while during the offseason, Martz and others at Rams Park wondered if Cleeland was interested in coming back at all. As an unrestricted free agent, Cleeland didn't respond to early Rams' efforts to re-sign him.

    "We tried to convince him to come back," Martz said.

    Cleeland recalls things a bit differently.

    "I wanted to come back right away," Cleeland said. "It wasn't my decision. I was told that the Rams were going to search around (at tight end). So I weighed my options. I enjoyed my free time."

    He is co-president of Cleeland Roberson Construction company with his brother-in-law. So when he wasn't working out, he was working. He finished building his own house, and had two other houses in mid-construction.

    And when Cleeland said "building," he meant it. At least in terms of his own home.

    "I put a thousand square feet of my own cherry wood flooring in," Cleeland said. "I did trim work. I did drywall. I did deck building. I'm learning it all. You can't play football forever. You want to be able to take advantage of things. And building's great. I love to construct and build."

    Cleeland was drawing interest from Seattle, and was getting ready to make a free-agent trip to Green Bay, when the Rams deal was finalized. He signed a one-year, $565,000 contract June 8, packed his guitar, and headed first to St. Louis and now Macomb.

    Cleeland played in every game for the Rams last season as the No. 2 tight end, and finished with 10 catches for 145 yards.

    There are only so many footballs to go around in an offense that includes Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. But Martz wants to take better advantage of Cleeland's pass-catching skills this season.

    "He's definitely a guy that you have certain things in the game plan for every week," Martz said. "There's no question about that."

    After one season in the Martz offense, Cleeland feels much better equipped to minimize mistakes and play a larger role.

    "This is the toughest offense in the league, by far," said Cleeland, who also has played for New Orleans and New England. "Having a year under my belt in this offense has made a big difference, especially for me mentally, because I don't have to stress so much on a play. Right out of the huddle, I know where to go. It feels a lot better that way."

    Reporter Jim Thomas

  2. #2
    tanus is offline Registered User
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    May 2004
    Southern California
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    Re: Building from adversity

    I really like Cleeland and think he will have a solid season at the TE spot. It wouldn't surprise me if he ended up with 6 TD's either.

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