BY JIM THOMAS
Tuesday, August 23, 2011 12:30 am | No Comments Posted

Jabara Williams said he talked to the Rams only once during the entire pre-draft process, at the NFL Players Association all-star game in early February in San Antonio.

So when the Rams drafted him in the seventh round, No. 228 overall, Williams said, "It was really unexpected but exciting at the same time. It's a great opportunity that they gave me."

But as the lockout dragged on, Williams wondered when he'd have a chance to take advantage of that opportunity.

"Even though I knew I was coming here, I didn't know what to expect," Williams said. "I had no playbook. I hadn't talked to the coaches, so I didn't know what their plans were for me coming into this situation. So it was really frustrating, not knowing what I was going into."

The linebacker from Stephen F. Austin didn't have a ton of money, either. But Williams' uncle, Earl Gray, came to the rescue, getting him a job working on an oil rig near the east Texas town of Tatum. It was honest work, but it's not as if Williams came home drenched in oil every day — he operated a joystick.

"I had really the easy job in that situation," Williams said. "It was really good for me. My uncle really helped me out."

Williams didn't work there for long, but the money helped tide him over. Now, he's hoping to strike it rich in the NFL. The 2010 Southland Conference defensive player of the year is trying to earn a job in a crowded linebacker corps at Rams Park.

Although listed at 223 on the Rams' roster, Williams said he weighed in at 240 when he arrived in St. Louis for the start of training camp. He runs well for the position, with a top time of 4.54 in the 40-yard dash.

"It's bigger and faster out there (in the NFL), so I'm just trying to keep up," said the soft-spoken Williams.

Williams, who has worked at both the weakside and strongside linebacker spots in camp, has flashed speed and athletic ability at times, be it the Lindenwood University scrimmage or the Rams' first two preseason games. But the math is tough at linebacker, with nine qualified bodies for what might only be seven spots on the final roster.

With the first round of roster cuts coming within the next week, it's show time for Williams and the rest of the roster longshots. Time to show that they belong.

"There's nothing like a game day," Williams said. "Or just waking up in the morning and knowing you're playing football for a living. So it's really a blessing just to be out on the field, knowing not everybody's able to say that."

As the saying goes, it beats digging ditches. Or working on an oil rig.

A look at three other unheralded prospects in Rams camp trying to earn a job:

CB Dionte Dinkins

Even though he played on the Division II level in college, at Fort Valley (Ga.) State, Dinkins felt good about his draft chances. For one, he got invited to play in three postseason all-star games. For another, no fewer than 21 NFL teams had talked to him in the weeks leading up to the draft, including about a dozen teams the day before the draft..

"So it was looking real promising," Dinkins said. "Of course, I didn't throw any draft parties or anything. I was just looking forward to the experience."

Turns out it was an experience to forget. On the last day of the draft, Dinkins grew more anxious as each round went by without his name being called. He stopped watching the draft on TV and went for a walk in the park with cell phone at his side. The phone rang once, but it was his brother checking in on him, not the NFL.

"It was very disappointing," Dinkins said. "I took it as one of the worst days really of my life. I was expecting to get drafted. I mean, I had the hype behind me. I only gave up a few passes this year. No touchdowns. Big corner, decent speed."

But no job. Until, that is, the Rams signed the native of Macon, Ga., as a rookie free agent. At 6-1, 195, he has the kind of frame that coach Steve Spagnuolo prefers at the position. Spagnuolo also likes to play press coverage. Guess what?

"In college, all we did was press man-to-man," Dinkins said. "Every snap."

So this could be a good spot for Dinkins, particularly with some injuries at the position. Dinkins says the veteran cornerbacks in camp have been helpful, including his idol — Al Harris.

"That was my favorite player, best cornerback of all time," Dinkins said.

Dinkins had some good moments in the first two preseason games, including a couple of pass breakups, but he's currently sidelined with a hyperextended knee.

RB Chase Reynolds

Reynolds is kind of a big deal in Montana. He's the career leader in touchdowns scored at the University of Montana. He also held the school mark for career rushing yards — for a while, anyway.

"I was three yards short of the all-time rushing record," Reynolds said. "I actually broke the record, and then lost some yardage and went three yards back. It was a sore subject for a while, but that's life. I had a good run, so there's nothing to be too upset about."

Reynolds played eight-man football in high school in Drummond, Mont.; his graduating class numbered 25. He got a half-scholarship to Montana and the rest is Grizzlies history. Now he's chasing the NFL dream after spending part of his summer as a traffic control supervisor. He set up construction zones on the highways in Big Sky country.

Reynolds began training camp with Seattle as an undrafted rookie. Following his release by the Seahawks, he was back home with his wife and two children for only a day and a half before the Rams called.

Although the practice squad is always a possibility, Reynolds' chances to make the active roster here are about as remote as you can get, what with the likes of Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood on the roster.

"I've never been the type to be star-struck," Reynolds said. "I don't know why. But it's obviously an honor to meet these guys and watch 'em do what they do, and learn from them. So it's awesome to be out here with them, that's for sure."

TE Ben Guidugli

Guidugli's pass-catching numbers went down as a senior at the University of Cincinnati. And he's small for the position at 6-1, 230. So like hundreds of undrafted rookies across the nation, he had to wait out the lockout before being signed by St. Louis.

With a fiancee and two kids to support, Guidugli spent much of the summer working for the Cleveland Black Oxide metal finishing company. "I was just in there taking inventory, and doing whatever they wanted me to do," he said.

As the Rams take inventory of their tight end position, Guidugli is now doing whatever his coaches want him to do.

"I can play fullback, be that motion guy, or tight end," Guidugli said. "In this offense, the fullbacks can be split out or on the line, or in the backfield. So I just want to show 'em that I can do all of that. And then obviously special teams as well."

Guidugli had two catches against Indianapolis and flattened a Colts player with a crunching crackback block that got the Rams' sideline excited.

"The other guys were pretty hyped up," Guidugli said. "It felt good to hit somebody that hard, and it felt good to get congratulated by your teammates. So it was good both ways."