By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Wednesday, Aug. 25 2004

Joey Goodspeed didn't know when to quit. When the Rams released him in
November, after just one week with the club, that made four teams in four
seasons. In all that time, he had managed to appear in just 12 games - on
special teams - for the San Diego Chargers.

"It's been an uphill battle," he said. "I knew I could play at this level. It
was just a matter of getting an opportunity."

Well, opportunity is knocking for Goodspeed. Loud and clear.

At the time of his release Nov. 7, the Rams told Goodspeed they planned to
re-sign him in a week. They did just that. In fact, they signed him through the
2004 season. He has been the Rams starting fullback ever since.

It appears the long search to replace the Hammer - James Hodgins - is finally
over. Last year at this time, coach Mike Martz practically was taking people
out of the stands to play fullback.

"We had 31 flavors," Martz joked. "We were taking (numbers) - No. 26, who's
next?"

No. 44 - Goodspeed - is next. Martz believes he could be the best all-around
fullback the Rams have had since Martz returned to the Rams coaching staff in
1999. Before tweaking a hamstring that sidelined him for the Kansas City game,
but isn't a serious injury, Goodspeed was showing that on the field.

"He's blossomed," Martz said. "He's probably more of a complete fullback than
we've ever had here. He's a terrific receiver, an excellent blocker, and a good
runner. So you'd have to give him high marks in all categories."

Robert Holcombe, the starter in '99 and '00, was a better runner and a willing
blocker. But Goodspeed is more stout at 247 pounds, and has better hands.
Hodgins could be a devastating blocker at the point of attack but doesn't have
Goodspeed's pass-catching or running ability.

In a backfield that could include Marshall Faulk, Steven Jackson, Lamar Gordon
and Arlen Harris at any time this season, Goodspeed doesn't figure to get many
carries. But he did display his pass-catching ability in the preseason opener
against Chicago with a 13-yard touchdown reception from Chris Chandler.

"I was just kind of shocked that he actually saw me," Goodspeed said. "We have
so many weapons in this offense, I'm usually the last in the line of
progression. Sometimes I feel like a ghost out there when I'm running routes,
but I was fortunate that Chandler saw me. It was cool."

Goodspeed, 26, grew up a Bears fan in Oswego, Ill., 40 minutes southwest of
Chicago. He went to Notre Dame as a linebacker but was switched to fullback.

He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Pittsburgh in 2000, then
bounced around to New Orleans and San Diego. But any chance of sticking with
the Chargers ended in 2003, when San Diego signed Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo
Neal. Goodspeed was cut after the Chargers' final preseason game last year and
was out of work for two months.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because Goodspeed's father - David
- was dying of cancer at the time.

"I do believe things happen for a reason," Goodspeed said. "I got to be home
with him for his final days, and take care of the family and all that stuff."

Not only had his father just died, a couple of Goodspeed's uncles had recently
passed away before the Rams called.

"It was hard," Goodspeed said. "But it was great that the Rams picked me up
when they did because it kept my mind off it. And it also helped me release
some aggression."

In his first game back after being re-signed with the Rams, Goodspeed released
some aggression on Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher. He threw a key block to
help spring Faulk on a game-changing 52-yard run.

Beginning with that Chicago game, Faulk reeled off four straight 100-yard
rushing efforts. So Goodspeed must have been doing something right as a lead
blocker. Goodspeed's play appeared to tail off after that. But after toying
with the idea of adding a fullback via free agency or the draft, the Rams
decided to stand pat in the offseason.

Being with the Rams throughout the offseason program, minicamps, and training
camp for the first time has helped Goodspeed immensely.

"Just getting more familiar with the offense," Goodspeed said. "Last year, I
was kind of staying up till midnight before games trying to know my
assignments. I mean, this is a hard offense.

"I guess the reason why I picked it up so fast is because I've been jumping
around from team to team. So I've gotten accustomed to learning offenses
quickly."

You never know for sure in the NFL, but it looks like Goodspeed finally might
have a little job stability.

"It's a dream come true," Goodspeed said. "Especially being a starter. After
everything I've been through, this is nice being able to say I made it."