Rams Grab Greco
Sunday, April 27, 2008

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

For the past nine seasons, the Rams have kept an offensive lineman from Toledo on the roster. Facing the prospect of playing without a Rocket for the first time in 10 years, the Rams ensured that wouldn’t happen.

With the second pick in the third round, No. 65 overall, the Rams chose offensive tackle John Greco, a Youngstown, Ohio native who was a four year starter at Toledo.

“I have never met Andy, but our coaches always mentioned him playing for St. Louis just because he’s a Toledo guy,” Greco said. “A couple of our guys are getting opportunities to play in the NFL so we are excited and I am familiar with Andy.”

Adding Greco to the mix fills yet another serious need for the Rams. Heading into the 2008 season, they are counting on left tackle Orlando Pace to return from injury and the still developing Alex Barron to reach his peak ability.

Behind those starters, the Rams aren’t exactly brimming with talented young prospects who could one day step in as starters. Now, the Rams are hoping that Greco can develop quickly enough to become the No. 3 tackle with the potential to one day be a starter.

“We view him as coming in right away to add depth on the offensive line,” Executive V.P. of Player Personnel Billy Devaney said. “We’re going to line him up at right tackle, knowing that he gives us versatility.”

Indeed, Greco will immediately fill in depth as a tackle on the right side with the potential to be the top backup at both sides as soon as this season and perhaps even compete with Barron for a starting spot.

“Well, he is going to compete right away,” coach Scott Linehan said. “We are just being realistic here. He is adding depth across the board on our line. I think the realistic part is he is going to be competing right away, whether it’s this year or part way through the year, I don’t know. It’s probably too early to say but he definitely has the make-up to compete sooner than later that’s for sure.”

While Greco will hear all about the comparisons to McCollum soon after his arrival in St. Louis, it’s another former Toledo offensive lineman that has often been the basis of association for Greco.

That player is former Rocket Nick Kaczur, the starting right tackle for the New England Patriots. Of course, it was easy for Greco to hear those comparisons because they were omnipresent in Toledo.

Anywhere Greco went in the football facilities, there was Kaczur. There’s the pictures and statues and trophies and soon to be a mural of Kaczur all over Toledo.

Greco doesn’t mind the comparisons and even Devaney is quick to draw on it.

“The traits are the same; smart, the toughness, the production,” Devaney said. “I would tell you that Kaczur could play on the left side and probably more of a natural left guy than John would be. But their traits are certainly the same.”

Making the comparison even more prevalent was the fact that Greco played with Kaczur and spent time learning and eventually replacing him. As a redshirt freshman in 2004, Greco was paired up with senior Kaczur as roommates on road trips.

Even then the coaching staff at Toledo saw the similarities in the players. By 2006, Greco was entrenched as a starter on the offensive line and a captain of the team.

Greco played right tackle as a freshman and moved to left tackle for his final three seasons. When all was said and done, Greco had started 49 consecutive games with 36 at left tackle.

At 6’4, 326 pounds, Greco has prototypical size and appears to be a prototype for the right tackle spot in the NFL. The only knock on Greco is the fact that he has relatively short arms (his reach is 29 and 7/8 inches) and played in a smaller conference.

But Greco says he doesn’t worry much about his pluses and minuses so much as he just attacks the game with the passion of someone who wants to make a living playing football.

“I am just a player,” Greco said. “I will do whatever it takes to help the team win. I am definitely a team guy. I work hard. I don’t stop working. I have fun. I just play aggressive with tenacity.”

Greco was projected by most scouting services to land somewhere in the third or fourth round. The arm length and questions about competition were the only reasons he lasted that long, though, especially on a weekend when offensive tackles were one of the league’s hottest commodities.

The Rams showed interest in Greco early, with Linehan talking to him at length at the NFL Combine in February. A few weeks later, the Rams invited Greco in for a pre-draft visit.

As has been custom in recent seasons, the Rams grabbed another player who came to town for a visit. Greco apparently made enough of an impression that the Rams had him ranked above even some of the tackles that went in the first round.

Getting that type of player in the third round is always a bonus.

“He was there in the third round today,” Linehan said. “I don’t know what it would be but we had him really up there on our board obviously. I went home last night hoping he was going to be there because we had one team ahead of us.”

Greco knew fairly early this morning that the Rams had interest and would likely take him if he was available. With the second pick in the third round, the wait wasn’t long.

On his way to Salty Grog’s restaurant in Youngstown, Greco got the call that he would be a Ram.

“I’m really excited,” Greco said. “I wasn’t expecting this and it is a huge honor. It is a big opportunity and I’m excited to get ready to go to work.”

Now, he’s ready to begin the pursuit of his NFL dreams and keep the Toledo-St. Louis connection alive.