By Bill Coats
Saturday, May. 12 2007

The road along the way was riddled with bumps, but Alton Pettway finally has
made it back home.

Pettway, a defensive end from Albany (Ga.) State, is among the hopefuls
participating at the Rams' rookie minicamp this weekend. Two 90-minute
practices are planned for both today and Sunday in Earth City. The workouts are
closed to the public.

The team's eight draft choices are in town, including first-round pick Adam
Carriker, a defensive lineman from Nebraska. Joining them are 20 undrafted free
agents — including the 6-foot-1, 242-pound Pettway — plus a handful of players
with a year or less of NFL experience.

Pettway, 23, is an East St. Louis native. He was a sixth-grader at Hawthorne
Elementary School when his parents, both Alabama natives, decided to move back
home. They settled in tiny Bay Minette, about 35 miles northeast of Mobile.

"I was born and raised here, and I really didn't want to leave," Pettway said.
"But now I'm back." He still has relatives in the area, including an uncle in
East St. Louis whose given name is Saint Lewis.

Pettway returns with a solid résumé, albeit on the NCAA Division II level.
Competing in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Pettway led D-II
in sacks last year, with 14 1/2. He was a two-time conference defensive player
of the year and a small-school All-American.

Because his high school grades lagged, Pettway started out at Itawamba
Community College in Mississippi. After two years there, he garnered
significant D-I interest. But still a bit shaky academically, he decided on
Albany State. "It was a great choice for me," he said.

The Rams are a team in need of an edge rusher who can pressure the quarterback,
and Pettway believes he's as suited as any of the youngsters to nab that role.

"I played D-II ball, but I feel like I'm on the same level as the rest of these
guys," he said. "I'm here to showcase my talent and prove to the coaches that
I'm supposed to be here. ... I look at it as, I've got one foot in the door.
All I have to do is take a couple of more steps, and I'm good."

His success at getting into the backfield is mostly a product of quickness and
leverage, Pettway explained. "I'm kind of small, so most guys I'm going against
are bigger and I use that against them," he said. "I find their weakness and
make it my strong part. I have a good burst, and I take short, choppy steps, so
I can shift and move. I kind of look at myself as a running back playing
defensive end."

A good catch?

Another small-school product is auditioning at Rams Park: wide receiver Derek
Stanley of Division I-AA Wisconsin-Whitewater. He was drafted in the seventh
round, No. 249 of the 255 overall selections.

Stanley, who packs just 179 pounds on his 5-11 frame, was a running back at
Verona (Wis.) High, and "with my size, I'm not going to be recruited by a lot
of D-I schools to play running back," he said. "Whitewater showed tremendous
interest. I knew they had a great program, and it worked out for me."

In 50 career games, Stanley caught 130 passes for 2,648 yards (a 20.4-yard
average) and 35 touchdowns. A burner with 4.3-second speed for 40 yards, he
also averaged 22.7 yards on 41 kickoff returns and even started 11 games at

On Friday, Stanley found that his locker was situated next door to Isaac
Bruce's and just a few stalls from Orlando Pace's. It was a bit much to grasp,
he acknowledged.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," he said. "I'm taking this day to be in awe, get
that all out of the system, and get ready to go tomorrow."