By Jim Thomas

It's almost nine years to the day that La'Roi Glover got the wakeup call -- a jolt to his ego and his career aspirations that still drives him today.

In late August of 1997, he was cut by the Oakland Raiders, who had drafted him in the fifth round out of San Diego State just a year earlier.

"It was a dream to be an NFL ballplayer," Glover said. "And just because you're cut, that doesn't mean your dreams are over. It kind of motivates you. It kind of makes you mad, a little."

The last thing Glover was going to do was quit, or give in, just because he no longer fit into the Raiders' plans. Glover wasn't raised to give in easily. His mother Dorothy, a prison guard, wouldn't allow it.

"Obviously, working in a prison is tough for a woman," Glover said. "But having her as your mom is a little tougher, because it wasn't always easy for her to turn the switch off. She's still kind of policing everything at home, so that's kind of where it started."

So it was hard to get by with much as a kid?

"Close to impossible," Glover said.

At an early age, Glover was working odd jobs " mowing lawns, cleaning neighbors' homes, hauling groceries. His work ethic was put to good use when the New Orleans Saints claimed him off waivers from Oakland.

"Once I did get picked up, I kind of used that (Oakland release) as a motivation," Glover said.

Nine seasons, and six Pro Bowls later, it still motivates Glover.

"Let's hypothetically say it's the second week of two-a-days, and I don't really feel like practicing today," Glover said. "It's kind of like the devil and the angel."

Devil: "Hey, I'm tired today. I don't feel like going. Let's take the day off."

Angel: "Hey, last time you did that, you got cut. So pick it up."

The approach worked. It would be eight years before Glover was released again. His career flourished in New Orleans, first under Mike Ditka, and especially under Jim Haslett. Glover made his first Pro Bowl in 2000, when he led the league with 17 sacks, an amazing total for a defensive tackle.

He has made the Pro Bowl every year since, including each of the past four seasons with Dallas, with whom he signed a free-agent contract in 2002. But Dallas switched to a 3-4 alignment under Bill Parcells, and signed a true nose tackle " Jason Ferguson " in free agency last season.

At 285 pounds, Glover is undersized for the position. His game is speed, quickness and penetration, not slugging it out in the middle.

"The transition (to a 3-4) was tough," Glover said. "But I've said this to a lot of reporters, and a lot of people: If you're a football player, it doesn't matter what you're doing. You're still going out and getting the guy with the ball, hustling and doing all those little things. And that's how I approached it.

"They brought in Jason Ferguson, a friend of mine who is a good player, to basically take the job. And I was able to battle him off for a substantial amount of time."

So when the Cowboys released Glover last March, he wasn't surprised or jolted this time.

"They brought in Fergie and paid him a lot of money," Glover said. "And I wasn't cheap. So something had to give, and you kind of had a good idea of what's going to happen."

Glover wasn't on the streets long. On March 6, just three days after being cut by Dallas, he signed a three-year, $12 million contact with the Rams.

The fact that Haslett and longtime Saints assistant Rick Venturi had been added to the Rams' defensive staff made St. Louis an easy choice.

"No. 1, was Jim and Rick and the style of defense that they were bringing," Glover said. "No. 2 was the offense. Very high-powered. If we can get a lead on teams, we can have opportunities to rush the passer.

"And thirdly, I think, was the quality of guys. It's going to be a fast defense. Jimmy Kennedy's making strides. Tony Hargrove's making strides. And Leonard Little is what he is."

The Rams are banking on Glover being Glover, even at age 32. He missed only one training camp practice, due to dehydration, and has shown flashes of his old form. Pass-rushing defensive tackles are rare, and Glover can still get up field in a hurry.

Rams defensive line coach Brian Baker still rates Glover as, "one of the top five, certainly top 10 defensive tackles in the NFL. So that means he's one of the best in the world at what he does. You just don't kind of ease into that role."

For Linehan, that role also includes leadership, which is another reason why St. Louis pursued him so quickly and aggressively once he became available.

"His greatest intangible quality is he's so good in the locker room," Linehan said. "He holds those young guys accountable. Does it with class. And has the credibility to do it. You can't just bring in (any) guy and say, 'Hey, you need to go lead the locker room.' The many, many Pro Bowls he's been to ... gives him plenty of credibility in my mind."

But in Glover's mind, those Pro Bowls mean nothing at the moment.

"Every year is Year 1 because you start from scratch in my opinion," Glover said. "Six Pro Bowls doesn't matter anymore. Put all that to the side, start from scratch, and earn your rep again. And that's how I approach it. Every single year."

That's how Dorothy Glover raised him.