It's tough to sing the praises of these rookies
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Aug. 21 2004

The other day in training camp, defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson was asked to
assess the performances of the rookies.

"They've been doing a really good job," Jackson said. "I've been impressed
specifically by about three or four of them. I like (Jason) Shivers. Shivers is
playing great. (Anthony) Hargrove, I think. . . ."

Jackson was interrupted right there. Not their playing performances. Their
singing performances.


"Oh," Jackson said. "Singing-wise. We've got no talent there. I haven't seen
one guy who should be doing anything other than football."

A sampler of the play list:

After getting booed off stage in his first attempt, first-round draft pick
Steven Jackson passed muster with Will Smith's intro to "Fresh Prince of
Bel-Air." But he was far from overwhelming.

"My record deal is probably going to go down the tubes," he said.

Seventh-round center Larry Turner performed the Righteous Brothers' "You've
Lost That Loving Feeling" to generally bad reviews.

"He was hurting," veteran reviewer Adam Timmerman said.

Sixth-round quarterback Jeff Smoker bombed with something from BoyzIIMen.

"It was pretty rough," Timmerman noted.

Third-round defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove got by with a shaky rendition of
the Georgia Tech fight song.

He skipped entire sections of the song. "But nobody knew," he said. "They all
just laughed."

They were laughing because many of Hargrove's teammates think he looks like
rapper 50 Cent. "Which I don't believe at all," Hargrove said.

Undrafted quarterback Russ Michna sang, "I Believe I Can Fly."

And those weren't even the worst efforts.

"I think Brandon Chillar was particularly bad," coach Mike Martz said.

Chillar, a fourth-round linebacker, was so bad that he's this year's winner of
the unofficial McDonald Award - so named for wide receiver Shaun McDonald after
his performance in '03.

"Mac started off last year with the worst performance ever in the history of
all rookies," Martz said. "But Chillar was right there."

While the Rams were in Macomb, Ill., Martz called rookies up at random at the
end of team meetings for what he calls "rookie entertainment." This year, he
gave them the option of either singing or telling jokes.

In his first two attempts, Chillar tried jokes. Jay Leno has nothing to worry
about.

"The jokes didn't work," Chillar conceded. "I got booed off twice."

If you're booed off stage, you're called back again. But with a little help
from his linebacker friends, Chillar finally got through by singing, "Shout!"

McDonald, currently bearing the stigma as the worst Rams' rookie performer
ever, complained mildly about this year's judging. "The crowd was a little
softer this year," he said. "They're letting a lot of stuff through that
wouldn't have gotten through last year."

And McDonald didn't have the joke-telling option last year. "That's definitely
a lot easier than trying to serenade the group," he said.