Rams could turn the corner again in first round of draft
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Apr. 26 2007
In their first 11 drafts since the move to St. Louis, the Rams didn’t take a
single cornerback in the first round. Now, there’s a chance they may take one
in back-to-back drafts.
A year ago, the club took Clemson corner Tye Hill in the first round, at No. 15
overall. This year, if defensive linemen Amobi Okoye of Louisville and Adam
Carriker of Nebraska are gone by the time the Rams pick Saturday at No. 13
overall, there’s a chance the Rams could go corner again.
Under that scenario, cornerbacks Leon Hall of Michigan and Darrelle Revis of
Pittsburgh might be the team’s best options. Particularly since it’s unclear
how highly the team rates Arkansas’ talented but raw defensive end Jamaal
Hall could be a top 10 pick, so it’s more likely that only Revis will be
available at No. 13. Revis, the Thorpe Award winner last season as college
football’s top defensive back, has some familiarity with the Rams.
His uncle is Sean Gilbert, a first-round draft pick by the Rams in 1992, who
played one season in St. Louis. Revis says he talks to Uncle Sean all the time.
"Before games, after games, he’s one of those guys who keeps me motivated,
keeps me confident in my game, and tells me what I might need to do better as a
player," Revis said.
Revis is also a distant cousin of defensive back Josh Lay, a former Pitt
Panther who is on the Rams’ current offseason roster. Revis and Lay didn’t even
know they were related until they attended a funeral in the fall of 2005.
At 5-11 1/2, 204 pounds, Revis has good size for the corner position. He has
very good speed (4.41 in the 40), and displayed good coverage skills and ball
skills at college. He’s also an excellent punt returner, with two returns for
touchdowns during his time at Pitt. When asked how often he was beaten in
coverage, Revis had an interesting reply:
"I’m not a cocky guy," he said. "I’m just confident in my game. When people
look at Darrelle Revis, I want them to look at how many categories in which he
never gets beat."
In the months leading up to the draft, Arkansas corner Chris Houston has been
getting tips from one of the NFL’s best — and most flamboyant — corners of the
modern era. Yes, Prime Time himself, Deion Sanders.
"He’s my mentor," Houston said. "He’s part owner of the (Arena Football League)
Austin Wranglers, so he comes to Austin and I live in Austin. He has a condo
down there and I’ll go talk to him, hang out, eat together."
The speedy Houston, who projects as a late first-round pick, has great coverage
potential but needs technique work. Does he pattern himself after Sanders?
"Of course, Houston said. "Everybody’s got a little Prime Time in him,
especially since I watched him when I was younger."
Unfortunately for Miami (Fla.) safety Brandon Meriweather, he’s known as much
for his actions during the Hurricanes’ infamous brawl against Florida
International as his play on the football field last season.
Meriweather was suspended for one game for stomping on several Florida
International players. He wrote a letter of apology after the brawl.
"To be honest, I kind of lost my mind a little bit with the emotions of the
game," said Meriweather, who paid a pre-draft visit to the Rams earlier this
month. "I just fell into a trap."
He could squeeze into the first round, but given the emphasis on personal
conduct by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Meriweather realizes his draft stock
could take a tumble.
"I was a leader, and I should have known better," Meriweather said. "I should
have done a little more to prevent it from happening. Will it hurt me on draft
day? We’ll find out more on draft day."
For openers, Utah’s Eric Weddle was the Mountain West defensive player of the
year for both the 2005 and ’06 seasons. Although primarily a safety and
cornerback, Weddle also played quarterback, running back, punted, returned
punts, and was a holder for the Utes.
Last season alone, Weddle returned two of his seven interceptions for
touchdowns, returned one of his two fumble recoveries for a TD, ran for five
TDs on offense, and also threw a TD pass.
Weddle, who should be a second- or third-round pick, describes himself as,
"just a guy who loves football and who'll do anything for the team. I'll go out
there and play special teams like I've done in my career. I'll play offense or
defense, or whatever the team needs."
But Weddle will earn his living in the NFL as a defensive back. As such, his
signature game in college was the 2005 Emerald Bowl, in which he limited
Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson to just two catches for 19 yards. Johnson is
considered by many to be the top player available in this weekend’s draft
regardless of position.
"I had four weeks to prepare for a player of his caliber," Weddle said. "You
have to bring you’re A+ game. If you ‘film study’ you can eliminate stuff. . .
.So half the game I knew what he was doing to do before he did it, and I was
just breaking on the routes."
Wilson and Campbell
The father of Maryland cornerback-kick returner Josh Wilson was Tim Wilson —
once the blocking back for the great Earl Campbell with the Houston Oilers.
Tim Wilson died of a heart attack in 1996. Wilson carries his father’s football
card with him in his wallet. He also has a version of the card tattooed on his
chest, with the inscription: "Forever in my heart."
"The big reason I got the tattoo is because I wanted a way to carry it with me
all the time," Wilson said. "If someone stole my wallet I’d be pretty upset,
not because there’s a lot of money in it. . .it’s because I have more valuable
things in there than money."
Over the years, Wilson has maintained a relationship with Campbell. Wilson
shapes up as a second-round pick and Campbell apparently is excited for him.
"(Campbell) said, ‘I’ve known you for so long. . .I never thought that I’d have
this chance to see you grow up and be the player that you are,’ " Wilson said.
"So it makes me proud for a guy of his status saying something like that to me."
A real workout warrior
Texas CB Aaron Ross is an almost certain first-round pick and has sub-4.5 speed
in the 40. But he freely admits that his girlfriend is the better athlete. He
is dating Sanya Richards, a 4x400-meter gold medalist at the Athens Olympics
who is now training for the Beijing games in 2008.
Ross remembers his first workout with Richards all too well. After what Ross
felt was an extensive workout, he and Richards started stretching.
"I was like, ‘All right, are we done?’ " Ross said. "She was like, ‘Nah, the
workout is just now beginning.’ "
Turns out, the pre-stretching work was just Richards’ warmup routine.
The long wait
The father of Virginia Tech safety Aaron Rouse did not see his son play for the
Hokies in person. It’s probably not going to happen any time soon.
"Man, you’re talking about 56 years, hard time," Rouse said. "Probation in
probably 15 or 16 years."
Rouse’s father is serving time for a 1999 murder.
"This past year is the first time I’ve seen my father in about eight years,"
Rouse said. "I actually went to the penitentiary to visit him to get some
things off my chest this past year before the season started. It’s not
difficult anymore. It’s kind of awkward, but not difficult."
• California corner Daymeion Hughes is an art major and a painter. "I paint
sports stuff, football stuff," Hughes says. "I paint pictures of myself. I try
to incorporate different backgrounds and different mediums."
• Oregon safety J.D. Nelson is the son of former Minnesota Vikings RB Darrin
Nelson, who’s now an assistant athletic director at Stanford.
• Tennessee cornerback Jonathan Wade was part of an Evangel Christian High
team in Shreveport, La., that won 54 consecutive games.