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-10-04-2012 #1Registered User
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Torry Holt talks to me about Steven Jackson and the Rams
I was lucky enough to interview Torry the other day.
I've written up an article for NFL UK - you can check it out here
In conversation with Torry Holt
03 October 2012 // BY: Mike Revell // TYPE: Latest News
It has been nine years since the St Louis Rams had a winning season – but the excitement and magic that surrounds the International Series can spark a change in fortune.
It will be billed as a home game when the St Louis Rams play at Wembley on 28 October. But when the team emerges, leaping and roaring, from the smoke and the fireworks and the bursts of flame, it won’t just be the starry London sky that dispels that idea.
There will be Rams fans in the crowd, certainly, but there will also be supporters decked in the colours of every other team in the league. The International Series is so much more than just a game: it is a celebration of the sport itself.
With a week of build-up, and Grammy Award-winning music from Train beforehand, it’s really more like a mini Super Bowl than anything else.
The last time the Rams played a game of this scale was 10 years ago, in Super Bowl XXXVI. In one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history – and a twist of fate that changed the landscape of the NFL for the next decade – the New England Patriots beat the Rams 20-17.
It was the Rams’ second Super Bowl appearance in three seasons. Dubbed The Greatest Show on Turf, they had Kurt Warner, the league MVP, and game-changer Marshall Faulk, a former MVP and reigning Offensive Player of the Year.
It was supposed to be so easy. They would dispose of the upstart Patriots and Tom Brady, their unheralded quarterback, in the same way they swatted away the rest of the league: with an unstoppable, eye-popping attack.
And when they did, they would become a dynasty. They would be kings, in their royal blue and golden horns, with the rest of the league looking up in wonder.
But the football gods had other ideas that day. The Rams’ destiny was not to be, and instead it was Tom Brady who was favoured. The quarterback who got overlooked even by the team that drafted him, the man seen as so unsuited to the NFL game that he was taken with the 199th pick in the draft, found himself on centre stage.
Brady calmly led his offence down the field and into the range of kicker Adam Vinatieri. The field goal won the game, but it was Brady’s ice-cool final drive that wrestled the Rams’ destiny away from them. It was Brady who turned the Patriots into a dynasty, even as the Rams’ dreams crumbled around them.
Since that fateful battle in the Louisana Superdome, the Patriots have won 125 games and lost just 39. The Rams have won 58 and lost 106.
No show can go on forever. Kurt Warner was released in 2004, and Marshall Faulk’s sensational career came to an end after knee surgery forced him to miss the entire 2006 season. Isaac Bruce, the most prolific wide receiver in Rams history, was released in 2008, and his wingman Torry Holt was cut a year later.
The team was never the same again after that Super Bowl loss, but the curtains closed slowly. Bit by bit, the Rams were dragged into the mire. Their decent into mediocrity and their failure to build around the stars they had was painful to watch.
I had a chance to talk to Torry Holt recently, and I asked him about the thoughts that come to mind when he reflects on the defeat that sent the team on its downward spiral.
“We should have won the game,” he said. “We would have had two World Championships. My hat is off to the Patriots.”
And they really should have won. But they didn’t – and here we are. It’s inevitable that this International Series clash between two sides bound by fate kicks up memories of that painful Super Bowl loss in 2002, but it’s a very different Rams team that will face Tom Brady later in the month.
This is a group of players that has been dragged through the mud for so long that they became associated with losing, and finally their wounded pride has kindled some sort of fire deep inside them.
There is hope in the air around the fallen kings. Partly this is brought about through the huge pile of draft picks the team acquired in exchange for the right to select Robert Griffin III in this year’s draft. Much of it is down to new coach Jeff Fisher, who has brought his brand of hard-nosed football over from the Tennessee Titans.
Fisher and Cortland Finnegan, the tough cornerback who came with him, are getting most of the headlines for cultivating the grittiness we’re starting to see in a side that has long needed it. But the beating heart of the Rams, the face of the team and the man this new identity is modelled on, is running back Steven Jackson.
For eight seasons, Jackson has toiled for a hopeless side struggling to climb out of the boggy depths of despair. He has never had a winning season. But he has tirelessly carried the Rams on his back, and strung together seven consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns against all odds.
When Tom Brady stole the Rams’ future, they were a lost side; a side without a destiny, and a side without an identity. But since entering the league in 2004, Steven Jackson has always tried to forge them one. For each of his eight seasons, he has run with hunger and passion and fierce, burning pride.
He has led by example for so long that his will to win and his sheer determination is at long last starting to rub off on his teammates. You will not see a finer example of leadership on any team in the league, and it all started when Marshall Faulk handed him the torch in 2005.
Torry Holt saw the handover first hand, but he was also lucky enough to experience something similar himself. When he was drafted in 1999, Isaac Bruce was already an established superstar.
“It was very good for me and my development,” he said. “Having a chance to watch a pro every day was awesome.
“The toughness Marshall displayed, and his insight about the game helped Steven Jackson become the player he is today. The standard was set for the running backs when Marshall retired. Steven Jackson has maintained that standard. It's been a pleasure to watch him grow.”
These days, rookies are thrown into the mix so early that it’s easy to forget the merits of learning behind an established veteran – especially when they’re an all-time great like Bruce or Faulk.
Steven Jackson played with Marshall Faulk, and he played with Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. He was there to witness greatness, even though the team was on the decline and falling apart. He has aspired to it ever since.
And so the Rams have come full circle. They have been to the top of the mountain, and fallen, and struggled woefully in the years since.
But thanks to the legs and heart of Steven Jackson, and now because of the motivation of Jeff Fisher, and because Lady Luck dropped Robert Griffin III in their path, there is a genuinely bright future on the horizon.
History shows us how fate and destiny are intertwined with big games. There is a tangible magic about them – it’s there to grab, if you want it.
One game against the New England Patriots 10 years ago realigned the stars and reshaped the future of the league.
Perhaps one game against the same team, against the same quarterback, on the world-famous turf of Wembley, can do it again.
Last edited by r8rh8rmike; -10-04-2012 at 12:59 PM. Reason: Remove link, post article.
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