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For rookie Vobora, football and fun go hand in hand
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
The look on the face of Samantha Bloxdorf, a student trainer at Concordia University who is helping out at Rams training camp, was one of dread when linebacker David Vobora insisted she join him at the front of the dining hall.
That's where the rookies sing for the veteran players, a camp ritual. It was Vobora's turn, and he had enlisted new pal Chris Long, the Rams' first-round pick in April's draft, for help.
He also needed Bloxdorf, who reluctantly stepped forward and, at Vobora's behest, took a seat facing the two hulking athletes, having no idea what to expect next.
Vobora and Long serenaded Bloxdorf with a badly off-key version of the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," complete with choreography: They knelt and reached out their arms toward her as they crooned, "Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you."
The performance drew hoots and howls from an audience accustomed to seeing reticent rookies stumble through awkward renditions of their school's fight song.
That wouldn't have been sufficient for Vobora, who acknowledges that he enjoys a good time as much as he does a big hit on a ball carrier.
"I always have fun; you have to," Vobora said. "I love football, no matter how hard it is, no matter how sore I am. I love it. And I'm going to have a good time at it."
After a pause, Vobora added, "Hey, Chris and I, I think we have a pretty big future in show business if this whole football thing doesn't work out, don't you?"
A LONG WAIT
The draft had slogged through nearly 28 hours, and 251 players had been selected by late afternoon April 27. But not Vobora, a 6-foot-1, 236-pound product of the University of Idaho.
He was with a small group of friends and family in his hometown of Eugene, Ore., watching on television. Then, like a lightning bolt, there was his name on the screen: Vobora was taken by the Rams with the very last pick of the draft. He was "Mr. Irrelevant."
Vobora had no idea what that meant. But he found out, via Google, and began envisioning what "Irrelevant Week" — a tradition since 1976 in Newport Beach, Calif., honoring the final selectee in the draft — would be like.
It turned out to be a weeklong party in late June. "David was awesome," said Melanie Fitch, "Irrelevant Week" organizer. "His whole family came out, and that made it just that much better."
Vobora said he had a ball. "Paparazzi, the gifts, fancy cars, the Playboy mansion … you feel like a superstar," he gushed. "If you're going to give me stuff and take me to Disneyland, you can call me 'Mr. Anything You Want,' and I'll go with it."
MAKING THE TEAM
Long, the No. 2 overall draft choice, is the projected superstar; his spot in the starting lineup is virtually assured. Seventh-rounder Vobora, separated by 249 drafted players, is guaranteed nothing. Still, the two have bonded.
"It's ironic," Long said. "They call him 'Mr. Irrelevant,' and there's all this stuff about me being No. 2. But we're just alike. We've got the same motivations, the same goals. And I think he's doing a great job."
Vobora, 22, piled up 341 tackles, sixth in Idaho history, despite starting for only two seasons. In that span, he made 282 stops to lead the Western Athletic Conference in tackles both years.
"David was a very productive player in college," Linehan said, "and he just happens to be from the greatest college institution in the country. So he's got an advantage."
Linehan quarterbacked the Vandals from 1982 to 1986. They're itching, Vobora said with a laugh, to compare eras. "Coach is definitely going to have to sit down and tell me some Idaho stories," he said. "And I'll have some for him."
Of course, Linehan was kidding about Vobora having an edge. He was serious, though, when he insisted that every player on the field has an equal opportunity.
"Ask Marc Bulger, a sixth-round pick," Linehan said. "There are guys that have made it in this league, even Pro Bowlers … it didn't matter how they got here, but once they got here, they took advantage of it. You never know."
The Rams are looking for depth at linebacker, and Vobora's extensive special-teams experience is a major plus.
Vobora "is a real smart football player and very adaptable; he's catching our eye," linebackers coach Rick Venturi said. "He's got a football mentality, instinctive, almost a throwback-type guy."
THE WORK ETHIC
Asked about Vobora, middle linebacker Will Witherspoon blurted, "Oh, you mean Mr. Psychotic?"
"I'd use the word 'gregarious,'" Long countered. "Dave lights up a room. He's a lot of fun to be around. … It's amazing. You get to know a lot about all these guys' personalities before you even know what kind of football players they are."
Had Long known Vobora years ago, he would have encountered the same character. "He's always been that way," said his mother, Debbie Vobora. "His philosophy in life is, 'Why do something if you can't have fun doing it?'"
But he also figures that sports endeavors aren't worth it if you can't come out on top, she added. "I remember when he was real young, and he'd go out to the front yard to play basketball with his dad," she said. "I hated that, because he'd get so upset if he lost. He'd be so mad at himself.
"He takes sports, especially football, very seriously."
How seriously? To get into top shape for camp, Vobora bought a 50-pound weight vest and strapped it on, under a full set of sweats, for his conditioning runs.
"It kicked my butt, but I'm really thankful that I did it," he said. It's paying off out here. I can really move around well."
Well enough to have a legitimate shot at sticking with the club, Linehan said.
"Just making a 53-man roster, no matter where you're drafted, is tough," Vobora said. "I know my role is special teams and to make plays, as well as know all the linebacker positions so I have the versatility to step in if they need me. Making the team is what it's all about. That's the main goal."
Be assured, though, that he'll get his kicks along the way. "Always," Vobora said, laughing again. "Always."
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Re: For rookie Vobora, football and fun go hand in hand
i like the sound of Vobora, i hope he sticks
would be great to see a Mr Irrelevant do well
Re: For rookie Vobora, football and fun go hand in hand
I definitely have started liking Vabora as well. He certainly sounds just like the type that comes from no where and wills his way into greatness. Did Brady or Bulger lose heart when they were drafted late? No, they stuck to it, and used their opportunities to become pro bowlers and super bowl champion(s?). David sounds just like that. How many other guys got a 50lbs vest just to kick their own butt in preperation for getting their butts kicked at camp?
I loved Spoon's comment best. "Oh, you mean Mr. Psychotic?"