As cuts loom, long shots keep plugging away ..
BY JIM THOMAS Tuesday, August 31, 2010 12:10 am
Talk about the road less traveled. Ernest Reid was born in American Samoa, grew up in Hawaii and went to college in Utah and North Dakota. Now he's trying to land a job in St. Louis as a defensive tackle for the Rams.
"It's coming to the wire," Reid said. "Last cut, so I'm just trying to do the most I can."
Reid was playing football at Utah State when his girlfriend became pregnant. Rather than run away from the responsibility of parenthood, he married his girlfriend, quit school and went back to Hawaii to get a job and provide for his family.
"I was working as a youth counselor, and in security, just bouncing around jobs," Reid said. "Finally, I decided I just wanted to finish my football and see where it takes me."
Initially, it took him to the University of Mary, an NCAA Division II school in Bismarck, N.D. That's where he finished his final year of eligibility. He wasn't drafted in April but attended the Rams' rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.
The Rams liked him enough to sign him to their 80-man roster, but he was cut after the full-squad minicamp in mid-June. He went home to Hawaai, worked out, worked part time as a bouncer and waited for the phone to ring.
When it rang, he was sleeping.
"Just on that last ring, I woke up, and I was too late to answer," Reid said.
But he noticed the area code on caller ID — 314 — and called right back, hoping it was the Rams. It was. When Chris Hovan was released in early August, Reid joined the Rams a week into training camp.
He has had some moments on the practice field, and in the second preseason game against Cleveland, got into the backfield a couple of times. A fire hydrant of a defensive tackle at 6-2, 320, Reid has four tackles this preseason.
His daughter Cha'lei turned 3 Saturday. His son Siale turns 1 in November. They're back in Hawaii with his wife. "I miss my family," Reid said. "But it's a better opportunity here."
Reid is among 11 undrafted rookies on the current Rams roster. They're all trying to beat the odds when the final roster cuts are made Saturday. A look at three other long shots.
RB Keith Toston
"I've been playing football my whole life," Toston said, "but the biggest difference is you can really tell it's a business (in the NFL). One day you can be here, the next you can be gone. It's a little scary, but I can't worry about it."
An All-Big 12 performer last season at Oklahoma State, Toston is a between-the-tackles style runner. He's the Rams' leading rusher so far this preseason, but with a modest total of 80 yards on 29 carries. That's only 2.8 yards a carry. But Toston looked more relaxed and more decisive last Thursday at New England, scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown.
"This last game, I actually got into a better rhythm," Toston said. "I calmed down a lot. I'm hoping for the same this next game."
The speed of the NFL game has been the biggest adjustment. "Everybody's fast out there, including the 'D' linemen," Toston said. "You can get run down by a defensive end at this level. So the biggest thing is to be decisive — make one cut and go."
LB Cardia Jackson
It was a slow go at first for Jackson For one, he was changing position, from a standout middle linebacker at Louisiana-Monroe to outside linebacker with the Rams. For another, the St. Louis defense is much more complicated than the system he played in college.
"That was a little bit of a challenge for me," Jackson said. "Coming out of college and being a rookie in the NFL, it's a lot that you have to grasp. You've got to get it and soak it in. I started out slow, but I'm picking it up and with the groove now."
Jackson hasn't played much from scrimmage, but he does have a sack. He has some speed and looks like he could have pass-rush potential. During training camp, his roommate in the team hotel was safety Kevin Payne, a fellow Warhawk from Louisiana-Monroe. Payne was a star senior in college when Jackson was a freshman.
"He always told me, with your game, your speed and your talent, you just keep doing what you're doing and you'll make it in the NFL," Jackson said.
Jackson's on the doorstep.
DT Jermelle Cudjo
Like Reid, Cudjo is a tree-stump of a defensive tackle, 6-2, 310. Cudjo attracted some Division I interest — including Missouri — playing high school football in Lawton, Okla. But low test scores sent him on the Division II route, and he was a standout for the University of Central Oklahoma.
Like Reid, Cudjo spent some time in the Cleveland backfield in the second preseason game, recording a sack. With final cuts looming, Cudjo says, "It's kind of stressful. I wake up every day and just put in God's hands. ... I feel like I can play a long time. I just need to get a shot, an opportunity to showcase my skills. And hopefully it works."