Rookies Get to Know St. Louis ..
By Nick Wagoner
One day after getting an up close look at much of their new home state via a bus trip to Joplin, the Rams rookie class divided into four teams and got more familiar with their new home city.
So it was that the 35 Rams rookies separated and visited area locations to get an idea of the food, culture and fun hangouts around town on Friday afternoon.
“The idea behind the 'Tour of St. Louis' was to expose the rookies to some of St. Louis' top spots and introduce them to their new hometown," Molly Higgins, the Rams vice president of corporate communications/civic affairs, said. "I think the players had a great time but the staff had just as much fun coming up with the list of places that we wanted to show them. Our only wish was that there would have been more time for more stops because we're so proud of St. Louis and the many things the community has to offer. It was really tough narrowing down the options given the limited time."
The first group visited downtown destinations, including the Goody Goody Diner at 5900 Natural Bridge Avenue, the Citygarden at 801 Market Street and Crown Candy Kitchen at 1401 St. Louis Avenue.
Guard Rokevious Watkins, receiver Chris Givens, running back Isaiah Pead, tackles Michael Hay and Joe Long, receiver Nick Johnson, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and offensive lineman T-Bob Hebert were among those on that part of the tour.
Pead enjoyed the chance to see different parts of the downtown and even made note of what it is that has put Crown Candy on the map, their BLT sandwich.
“We went to eat at a chicken and waffle type of place (Goody Goody), that was good,” Pead said. “Then, we went to a bacon place (Crown Candy) and that was fun and we hung out there. Then we went downtown to play with kids in the water at the Citygarden. All together the whole day was fun, we had a different setting everywhere we went. I got to see a few areas and places I might go back to on my own one day.”
The second group got to rock the suburbs a little bit by venturing into historic Kirkwood where stops included Pi Pizzeria at 10935 Manchester Road and the Magic House at 516 S. Kirkwood Road. In fact, the guys had so much fun playing with the kids at the Magic House that they didn't have time to make it to Tropical Moose, a shaved ice stand and local favorite, at the Kirkwood Farmer’s Market at Taylor and Argonne.
Amongst the rookies in that group were third-round cornerback Trumaine Johnson, punter Johnny Hekker, long snapper Travis Tripuka, safety Matt Daniels, kicker Greg Zuerlein, safety Rodney McLeod, cornerback Jeremy Caldwell and cornerback Quinton Pointer.
While the second group enjoyed everything about its tour, Johnson and Zuerlein couldn’t help but take particular notice of the Magic House, a facility that’s unique in its own right.
“I had never seen anything like that in my life,” Johnson said. “All the kids were out there having fun and it was just a great time. It was something I’d never seen before in my life and if I’m here, I’d be taking my kids there every day.”
Zuerlein echoed those sentiments.
“We got to go to the Magic House and play with the kids and take a little tour around St. Louis, experience a great St. Louis pizza place,” Zuerlein said. “It was fun, I enjoyed it a lot.”
The third group spent its time in the Delmar Loop and Central West End area with stops that included Blueberry Hill at 6504 Delmar Boulevard and the St. Louis Zoo at 1 Government Drive. While a dessert stop at The Cup at 28 Maryland Plaza was in the plans, due to time limitations they had the cupcakes delivered to the Zoo to allow more time with the animals.
Rookies in the third group were defensive tackle Michael Brockers, linebackers Sammy Brown, Aaron Brown, Alex Hoffman-Ellis and Noah Keller and defensive linemen Matthew Conrath, Jamaar Jarrett and Scott Smith.
Aaron Brown enjoyed his time but the home of legendary Rock ‘N Roller Chuck Berry stood out to him as a place he’d visit on a regular basis.
“I loved Blueberry Hill, they had great food, great atmosphere, seems like a great place to go for a good meal or to have fun,” Brown said. “They have darts, some other games too. We also went to the Zoo and rode around on the golf cart. It was fun.”
Higgins, who accompanied the third group, believes both Blueberry Hill and the Zoo became instant go-to spots for the rookies.
"At Blueberry Hill, the guys had the opportunity to meet legendary St. Louisan and Blueberry Hill owner Joe Edwards," Higgins said. "It was fun to see how much they loved the experience and their famous burgers. A couple of the guys were already planning a return trip before we even walked out the door."
When the group arrived at the St. Louis Zoo, they visited the bear pit before heading over to Sea Lion Sound, a brand new exhibit that isn't open to the public yet.
"The hospitality at the Zoo was amazing," Higgins said. "They treated us to a sneak peek of the sea lion show and we had the chance to interact with Bennie, one of the male sea lions. The players got to give him fist bumps, but Bennie gave me a kiss so I think I was the big winner of the day. We had a great time and I know the Zoo will become a favorite destination when they have family and friends in town to visit."
The fourth and final group went to Blues City Deli for lunch at 2438 McNair and Grant’s Farm at 10501 Gravois Road. They had hoped to also make it to the ever-popular Ted Drewe’s Frozen Custard at 6726 Chippewa, but their trip to Grant's Farm ran long so they had to put Ted Drewe's on hold until next time.
Receiver Brian Quick, running backs Daryl Richardson, Nick Schwieger and Calvin Middleton, fullback Todd Anderson and tight ends Jamie Childers, Cory Harkey and DeAngelo Peterson comprised the final group.
Quick enjoyed the trip to Grant’s Farm.
“It’s a great area, period,” Quick said. “There are a lot of good things. I went to the park and that was nice. That’s what stood out to me.”
The tour of St. Louis was the penultimate event of the annual Rams Rookie Week, which began in 2009 as a way of introducing the team’s new rookies to their community. The tour was the first time such an event had been included in rookie week and, by all accounts, was a big hit.
"When we came up with the idea of the tour, we thought it would be an exciting way to wrap up the week," Higgins said. "It was fun exposing the guys to some St. Louis favorites. It was also fun seeing the public's reaction to the guys. I told them that St. Louis loves their sports teams and it's very important to us as an organization that we return that love."
While St. Louis is still new to the rookies and isn’t quite home yet, Friday’s tour was a step in the right direction.
“It’s not (home) yet,” Quick said. “It hasn’t been long enough, but it’s going to be soon.”
This year’s group began their rookie week with a youth football camp at the ContinuityX Training Center and a charitable bowling event on Monday, a number of educational forums on Tuesday,Wednesday and Friday and a trip to Joplin to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity.
Rookie week came to a close on Saturday with the team's drafted rookies handing out pink roses to breast cancer survivors as they crossed the finish line at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in downtown St. Louis. The 10 drafted rookies will next head to Ohio for the annual Rookie Symposium.