Long shots hope to defy the odds, stick with Rams
By Jim Thomas
Of the Post-Dispatch
Tuesday, Aug. 23 2005
The "Turk" isn't here yet, but he's on his way. By Aug. 30, NFL rosters must be
trimmed to 65. By Sept. 4, each roster shrinks to the regular-season limit of
So in less than two weeks, one out of every three players currently practicing
with the Rams will be out of a job. For some, these next few days will be their
last in professional football.
Until then, there's always hope. Hope that they can survive the roster
cutdowns, and maybe - just maybe - become the next London Fletcher or Kurt
Warner. Here's our annual look at some Rams roster long shots hoping to beat
Jeremy Calahan: The next Zgonina?
He has a stocky frame, thick calves, and wears jersey No. 90. If only Calahan
were crabby on a regular basis, he'd be a dead ringer for Jeff Zgonina. The
Rams thought so, too.
"They took a picture of me and sent it to Zgonina as kind of a joke," Calahan
The picture, taken in the Rams' indoor practice facility, shows defensive line
coach Bill Kollar with his arm around Calahan. Zgonina, now with Miami, wore
jersey No. 90 in five seasons with the Rams.
"I didn't know (about the similarities) until I'd seen him on film," Calahan
said. "The guy's just massive. He's huge. And he's a great player. I hope one
day I can be at his level."
At Rice, Calahan started three games as a true freshman, and was a full-time
starter his final three college seasons. He's a hustle player who has shown a
good inside push at times on the practice field. For a while, it looked as
though he might give Brian Howard a run for the fourth defensive tackle spot
behind first-round draft picks Ryan Pickett, Jimmy Kennedy, and Damione Lewis.
But the arrival of 13-year NFL veteran John Parrella may change the depth-chart
Not that it seems to matter to Calahan.
"I'm having the time of my life," he said recently. "I think I fit in well with
Coach Kollar. He's an effort and hard-work guy. He got me in here. So I'm just
loving it. Just living a dream."
If it doesn't work out, Calahan might start pursuing another dream - as the
next super agent, or the next Jay Zygmunt. He already has his degree in
economics, sports management and business management.
Clifford Dukes: Spartan spirit
Five years ago, Dukes and Rams quarterback Jeff Smoker entered Michigan State
"I redshirted, so he left school a year before me," Dukes said. "We were
actually suite-mates. Freshman year in the dorm we shared a bathroom. So we
crossed paths a little bit."
From the moment Dukes signed with the Rams as a rookie free agent in April,
Smoker has helped him get through minicamps, the OTAs (organized team
activities), and now, the first four weeks of camp and preseason.
The best advice Dukes has gotten from Smoker?
"Accept coaching," Dukes said. "You're a rookie. You're going to be cursed at,
you're going to be screamed at, so just accept the coaching. It's constructive
criticism. So just go with the flow, and don't take it as a blow."
As a junior at Michigan State, Dukes registered seven sacks, returned a fumble
for a touchdown and earned second-team all-Big Ten honors. But he was slowed by
injuries as a senior, most notably a sprained knee, and finished with only 2
1/2 sacks. Dukes didn't get drafted, but he had a couple of options with NFL
teams as a free agent.
"I chose to come here because I saw the depth chart," Dukes said. "I'm glad I'm
here in St. Louis. ... I really would like to help this team out."
The Rams entered training camp looking for a fourth defensive end behind
Leonard Little, Anthony Hargrove and Tyoka Jackson. Dukes will have to make
something big happen, and make it happen quickly, because Brandon Green already
has two sacks this preseason.
Remy Hamilton: Getting his kicks
To this day, Hamilton remains the only kicker in Michigan Wolverines history to
earn all-American honors. Over the last eight seasons, the past four with the
Los Angeles Avengers, he has carved out a niche as one of the top kickers in
Arena Football League history.
"When I came out of college, my goal was obviously the NFL," said Hamilton, who
turns 31 on Tuesday. "Over the years that I've progressed with Arena and been
accomplishing a bunch, I'm becoming more, I guess, complacent about being
there. And happy to be there. But I'd really love the opportunity to kick in
It's not going to happen in St. Louis, where Pro Bowler Jeff Wilkins is firmly
entrenched. Hamilton has handled place- kicking chores in the first two
preseason games, but only because the Rams want to rest Wilkins' leg.
"Any time I can be around a veteran like Jeff Wilkins, it's a great
opportunity," Hamilton said. "He's been great. I'm learning a lot of things
from him, and just trying to get better."
If nothing else, Hamilton is getting a chance to showcase what he can do for
other NFL teams that might be looking for a kicker. Unfortunately for Hamilton,
he's had only one field goal attempt, a 33-yarder that he made against Chicago.
But he's had plenty of chances to display his leg strength on kickoffs. He's
been good there, but not outstanding. On average, his six regular kickoffs -
excluding two onside kicks against San Diego - have landed on the 6-yard line.
The average return on those kicks has been 22.7 yards.
Erik Jensen: Battling the injury bug
Nearly a year ago at this time, all was well with Erik Jensen. The
seventh-round draft pick from Iowa was starting on a couple of special-teams
units. A tight end and fullback, he was running with the second team at
"I was satisfied with my situation at that point," he said. "Just looking
forward to getting my season going, getting on all the special teams, and then
maybe working into some more reps during the regular season. But that ended at
the Oakland game."
In the fourth quarter of the Rams' 2004 preseason finale against the Raiders,
Jensen caught a pass from Smoker and was steaming toward the end zone. If
Jensen could do it over again, perhaps he simply would put his head down and
try to bulldoze through the defense.
Instead, he dived for the end zone, dislocating his left knee in the process.
He needed surgery, and was placed on the injured reserve list, ending his
rookie season before it really got started.
In the offseason the Rams signed veteran free agent tight end Roland Williams
and drafted Notre Dame's Jerome Collins in the fifth round to play the same
"I'm a low-round guy," Jensen said. "I've got to earn my spot every year."
Missing more than two weeks of training camp this year didn't help his cause.
Jensen got hurt again this year, suffering a lower back injury in the first
week of camp.
"I was blocking and just got twisted real funny, and it kind of went," Jensen
He returned to practice last week, but he didn't play against the Chargers and
is running out of time to earn a roster spot.
"I've had about the worst luck anybody could have in the first year, and the
beginning of this year," Jensen said.
Re: Long shots hope to defy the odds, stick with Rams