By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
MACOMB, Ill. - From Priory to Penn to pro football ... it's been an interesting journey for Ben Noll, a Rams fan who is trying to become a Rams employee.

"I grew up watching these guys, and it's fun to be able to get to know them as individuals, not just football players, not just talented athletes," said Noll, 22. "That's a special feeling for me."

Noll, a 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle from Wildwood, is an undrafted rookie who signed with the Rams last month. He was a member of the 1999 Post-Dispatch All-Metro team while at Priory and then twice was an All-Ivy League pick at Pennsylvania.

He came to camp at Western Illinois University as a distant long shot to make the team, but injuries have depleted the offensive line and he's getting significant reps. Asked to evaluate his play so far, Noll - a reluctant interviewee - said, "Oh, I'll leave that up to the coaches to decide. I'm just out there having a good time, trying to get better every day."

Noll chose Penn over more prominent football schools because he wanted to get away from the Midwest for a while and because it "had the right fit for me, in terms of academics and football and other things that I found important in the college experience."

And, he pointed out, the Ivy League produces some good players: He noted proudly that every school in the league has at least one representative in the NFL. "There's not necessarily the depth there would be at other schools," Noll said, "but there are a couple of guys on each team that are impact players and get a shot in NFL camps, like myself."

If pro football doesn't work out, Noll will have something solid to fall back on. He's in the process of completing a degree from Penn's famed Wharton School of Business.