08.05.2009 8:21 am
By Bill Coats
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

When GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo set out to rebuild the St. Louis Rams, including a major overhaul of the roster, they determined that only athletes of strong character need apply. Spagnuolo unveiled his “four pillars” — faith, character, core values and team first — and has stuck with them.

Recently, Spagnuolo bought each of his troops a copy of Tony Dungy’s book, “Uncommon: Finding Your Patch to Significance.” Tweeted Steven Jackson, “Good choice.”

Here’s an excerpt from “Uncommon”:

“In 1998, the Indianapolis Colts were confronted with a dilemma. Finishing the prior season with three wins against thirteen defeats, they held the first pick in the NFL draft that April. Their selection would affect the direction of the team for years to come, positively or negatively. At the time, I was head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so I was worried about my team in Tampa, and didn’t realize what a huge impact the Colts’ selection would have on my life.

“Bill Polian, president of the Colts, was faced with a difficult choice between two great talents: Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning. Both were big players with strong arms: Leaf had set numerous records at Washington State University, and Manning had done the same at the University of Tennessee. In hindsight, it seems like an obvious choice, but at the time there was plenty of debate.

“Media analysts and scouts around the league were split evenly, but Bill decided to select Manning. There was no question Peyton had the physical skills to be a great player, but what tipped the scales in Bill’s mind were Peyton’s work ethic, his love for the game, his approach toward football as a job, and his quiet private life.

“Ultimately, when faced with the choice that would define the course of the franchise, the Colts based that decision on character, and that choice has resulted in great success for us and for our future Hall of Fame quarterback.”

The Rams are on the field, fully padded again.