Tercero is a "warrior" chasing Mexican roots
By Bill Coats

Of the Post-Dispatch
Rams guard Scott Tercero keeps an eye on his man in training camp. Tercero is expected to start at left guard in place of injured Chris Dishman on Sunday afternoon.
(Chris Lee/P-D)

Although he was born and raised in the United States, Rams guard Scott Tercero remains curious about his Mexican ancestry.

"I think a lot of third- and fourth-generation children lose track of their heritage," Tercero said. "I've been trying to find out about the area where my grandparents grew up."

That would be Zacatecas, a city of 117,500 situated in central Mexico, about 400 miles northwest of Mexico City. Tercero had scheduled a trip there, but illness forced him to cancel.

Richard and Theresa Tercero reared their family - Scott, plus younger siblings Brent, Grant and Alison - in Pico Rivera, a suburb east of Los Angeles. As a youngster, Scott said, learning about his Mexican roots "wasn't that big of a deal."

But as he grew older, Scott's interest in his family's background increased. He intends to plan a trip to Zacatecas, home of Mexico's oldest bull ring but hardly a hotbed of NFL fans. If Tercero continues to make a name for himself with the Rams, perhaps that will change.

Tercero, a second-year pro from Cal-Berkeley, is expected to start at left guard in place of injured Chris Dishman on Sunday, when the Rams (2-2) face the Seahawks (3-0) in Seattle in an NFC West showdown. Tercero, the Rams' sixth-round draft choice in 2003, made his first career start last Sunday in the Rams' 24-14 victory at San Francisco.

"I had a lot of family there and a lot of friends, so it added that much more to the excitement," said Tercero, who will turn 23 on Oct. 28. "A lot of people that are important to me got to see me play in my first start."

They saw him play well, according to left tackle Orlando Pace.

"Scotty played great," Pace said. "He broke a bone in his hand, and that just goes to show how tough he is: He stayed in the game. He's a warrior out there."

After reviewing Tercero's performance on tape, coach Mike Martz echoed Pace's assessment. Martz said one play in particular stood out.

"I don't know how he saw this linebacker coming on a pitch play where Steven (Jackson) took it down to about the 10-yard line," Martz said. "He saw (the linebacker) and turned back in and got him. He has an awareness that's really unusual."

Apprised of Martz's wonderment over the play, Tercero laughed and claimed to possess no special skills in clairvoyance.

"I wouldn't say that I have a sixth sense," he said. "You play the game a lot and you develop kind of an instinct. You see things happening and you kind of feel from the alignments of the defensive players what's going to happen."

Basketball was a younger Tercero's game.

"My main love," he said. But as his body matured -- he's 6 feet 4 and 303 pounds - it became apparent that he was built more for football. He had a solid, if not spectacular, career at Loyola High in Pico Rivera, and neither of the major hometown universities - UCLA and USC - was interested in him.

So, he headed north.

"Cal was really high on me and I really liked the Bay Area, so they made the decision for me," Tercero said.

The Bears were a combined 8-25 in Tercero's first three seasons. But in 2002, when he was blocking for Kyle Boller - now the Baltimore Ravens' quarterback - they finished 7-5. Cal went 8-6 last year and carried a 3-0 mark and No. 7 national ranking into Saturday's game against top-ranked Southern Cal.

"They're developing something really special there, and I'm really happy for them," Tercero said.

Just as he's pleased to get a shot at starting with the Rams - even if turns out to be temporary. Tercero, who worked at guard and tackle during training camp, was thrust into action when Dishman suffered a hyperextended right knee early in the second quarter Sept. 26 against New Orleans. Tercero said he doesn't feel as if he's auditioning for a full-time job with the first unit.

"I don't see it as that," he said. "When I go in, I try to play as well as possible. That's my position right now, being a backup. And wherever they need me to fill in, that's what I'm going to do. I don't have a problem with that at all."