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Building from adversity

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  • Building from adversity

    Building from adversity
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - How many times have you driven by an accident, only to notice the police, an ambulance, or another motorist already on the scene?

    But what if that weren't the case? And what if the vehicle in question was on fire?

    That situation confronted Rams tight end Cameron Cleeland in late May in Mount Vernon, Wash.

    "It was on a back road right next to my house, in my hometown," Cleeland said. "The young man had flown through a stop sign at an intersection, and hit a tree, probably going 50-plus miles an hour. I was the first one on the scene."

    Cleeland's wife, Mindy, was in the car and immediately called 911.

    "The car was on fire," Cleeland said. "He was trapped inside. I tried to help him out as best I could, tried to get him out of there."

    Cleeland threw dirt on the driver, Timothy Roth, in an effort to douse the fire. He tried to keep Roth talking. Finally, another motorist arrived with a fire extinguisher, and then the fire department.

    But all those efforts went for naught.

    "He ended up passing away that night," Cleeland said. "The fire department - we all tried to help him. He made it to the hospital, and his family had an opportunity to say goodbye before he passed away. It was really hard. Hard dealing with."

    Roth was 22. The events of that day, May 23, caused nightmares for Cleeland, a seven-year NFL veteran from the University of Washington. And a shift in perspective.

    "It's something that will be with me forever, watching something like that," Cleeland said. "You don't realize how lucky you are and how fortunate we are to have what we have. Even when you're out here (at practice), I try to tell myself, 'Man, I'm lucky that I'm out here.'

    "Because you just never know. I consider myself a Christian. The Lord has a plan. Your time is when your time is, and you've just got to take advantage of it."

    With that in mind, Cleeland has approached his second Rams training camp with renewed vigor. He has missed the last three practice days in Macomb with a hamstring injury, but had looked impressive early in camp.

    "He's a very talented guy, and he's got terrific receiving skills," coach Mike Martz said. "The one thing that he was inconsistent on, and that he's completely established out here, is the physical aspect of it. He has been outstanding (blocking) in the running game.

    "I'm a little disappointed he's gotten injured, but we'll get him back. It doesn't sound like it's anything significant."

    For a while during the offseason, Martz and others at Rams Park wondered if Cleeland was interested in coming back at all. As an unrestricted free agent, Cleeland didn't respond to early Rams' efforts to re-sign him.

    "We tried to convince him to come back," Martz said.

    Cleeland recalls things a bit differently.

    "I wanted to come back right away," Cleeland said. "It wasn't my decision. I was told that the Rams were going to search around (at tight end). So I weighed my options. I enjoyed my free time."

    He is co-president of Cleeland Roberson Construction company with his brother-in-law. So when he wasn't working out, he was working. He finished building his own house, and had two other houses in mid-construction.

    And when Cleeland said "building," he meant it. At least in terms of his own home.

    "I put a thousand square feet of my own cherry wood flooring in," Cleeland said. "I did trim work. I did drywall. I did deck building. I'm learning it all. You can't play football forever. You want to be able to take advantage of things. And building's great. I love to construct and build."

    Cleeland was drawing interest from Seattle, and was getting ready to make a free-agent trip to Green Bay, when the Rams deal was finalized. He signed a one-year, $565,000 contract June 8, packed his guitar, and headed first to St. Louis and now Macomb.

    Cleeland played in every game for the Rams last season as the No. 2 tight end, and finished with 10 catches for 145 yards.

    There are only so many footballs to go around in an offense that includes Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. But Martz wants to take better advantage of Cleeland's pass-catching skills this season.

    "He's definitely a guy that you have certain things in the game plan for every week," Martz said. "There's no question about that."

    After one season in the Martz offense, Cleeland feels much better equipped to minimize mistakes and play a larger role.

    "This is the toughest offense in the league, by far," said Cleeland, who also has played for New Orleans and New England. "Having a year under my belt in this offense has made a big difference, especially for me mentally, because I don't have to stress so much on a play. Right out of the huddle, I know where to go. It feels a lot better that way."

    Reporter Jim Thomas
    E-mail: [email protected]

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Building from adversity

    I really like Cleeland and think he will have a solid season at the TE spot. It wouldn't surprise me if he ended up with 6 TD's either.


    Related Topics


    • RamWraith
      Cleeland's back as Rams face familiar foe
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      Saturday, Oct. 08 2005

      Some nine months after the fact, Cam Cleeland remains a target for some mostly
      good-natured ribbing in his hometown of Mount Vernon, Wash.

      "I still have friends that call me, 'Why'd you do that to us?'" Cleeland said.
      "And I say, 'What did you want me to do? Drop it?'"

      The scene was Qwest Field in Seattle, about 50 miles south of Mount Vernon. The
      date was Jan. 8, the event a first-round playoff game between Cleeland's Rams
      and the Seattle Seahawks.

      The score was 20-20 late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Marc Bulger
      lofted a pass high over the middle in the direction of the 6-foot-5, 270-pound

      "I didn't see anything except the ball," said Cleeland, a longtime Seahawks fan
      and a University of Washington product. "I said, 'You'd better hang on to this

      Hang on, he did, despite a crushing hit by free safety Ken Hamlin a
      split-second after the ball arrived. The 17- yard touchdown gave the Rams a
      27-20 victory. It was Cleeland's only scoring catch of the season, and his last
      reception in Rams blue-and-gold. Or, so it seemed.

      When Roland Williams was signed as a free agent in March, Cleeland's two-year
      stretch as the Rams' No. 2 tight end was over.

      Asked if he was disappointed that the Rams jettisoned him so abruptly, Cleeland
      said: "Maybe a little bit. But when it comes down to it, it is
      business. And I've learned that this league is about what's productive and
      what's good for the team.

      "Of course I wanted to come back and play. But ... Roland came in, and I wasn't
      upset or offended at all."

      Battling injuries

      At age 30, Cleeland has played seven NFL seasons. He was New Orleans'
      second-round draft choice in 1998 and caught 54 passes for 684 yards as a
      rookie. Largely because of a series of injuries, he never reached such totals
      again. He missed the entire 2000 season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon, spent
      one more year with the Saints and then a season with New England. Cleeland
      signed with the Rams as a free agent in March 2003.

      He played in 32 regular-season games over two seasons, catching 17 passes for
      202 yards. His lone Rams TD came in front of a gaggle of friends and family,
      and booted the Seahawks from the postseason.

      He called the experience "surreal."

      Content in his co-ownership role in a condominium- and custom-home construction
      business he runs with his brother-in-law, Cleeland spurned a couple of tryout
      offers last summer.

      He and Tim Roberson got the firm...
      -10-09-2005, 08:54 AM
    • RamDez
      In a different arena, Cleeland did his best
      by RamDez
      As a tight end, Cameron Cleeland is best known for what once was done to him and for what he hasn't been able to do. He sustained damage to one of his eyes during an infamous training camp hazing incident his rookie season with New Orleans and has had difficulty avoiding injury since.

      In six seasons with the Saints, Patriots (2002), and Rams (last year), he has played in every game only twice because of an assortment of injuries, among them three to his Achilles' tendons.

      Not since he caught 54 passes in 1998 after arriving as a second-round pick out of the University of Washington has Cleeland been on the field long enough to meet the expectations.

      But when Judgment Day arrives, Cleeland will be able to say that, for one moment at least, he did what he should have done.

      Around 8:45 p.m. last Sunday, Timothy Roth's car struck a tree near the intersection of Little Mountain and Amick roads, southeast of Mount Vernon, Wash., which is about 70 miles north of Seattle. Roth's 1994 Ford Taurus became engulfed in flames.

      He had to be airlifted to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, where he died at around 3 a.m. the next day from burns, according to the Washington State Patrol. Roth was 22.

      When Cleeland came upon the accident scene, he didn't drive by or place an emergency call from his mobile phone, as perhaps many would have.
      Cleeland, who is from nearby Sedro Woolley, pulled over and did unto another what he would have done unto him.

      Rather than wait for the Big Lake Fire Department, Cleeland attempted to fight the blaze with an extinguisher, state troopers said, and while trying to remove the car's air bag from Roth's face, he suffered another injury -- severe burns to the hands with which he makes his living.

      Fortunately, Cleeland is still alive, and apparently in the days since his rescue attempt has been thinking more about Roth and his family than about himself.

      Rams spokesman Artis Twyman said he spoke last week with Cleeland, who is unsigned, and the tight end requested that the Rams not put out a news release and decline interviews on his behalf.

      "Cam was really shaken up about it when I talked to him," Twyman said.
      "I tried to talk to him but I could tell he didn't want to talk about it too much or go in depth, out of respect for the family.

      "He said it's something you really don't want to experience in life. It must have been really bad; I could hear him getting choked up."

      A memorial service for Roth was held yesterday in Langley, Wash.

      As for Cleeland, he may have been a Patriot for only a season, but he will be a hero for the rest of his life....
      -05-30-2004, 06:30 AM
    • AlphaRam
      Cam Cleeland: Then and Now
      by AlphaRam
      Cam's biggest moment with the Rams came in the January 2005 first-round playoff game against Seattle. His 17-yard TD catch with 2 minutes 11 seconds remaining in the game gave the Rams a 27-20 victory. Unfortunately, we got demolished by Vick and Atlanta the following week.

      As I was researching recently to make a custom figure of a high school version of Cam, I ran across this article. In all of the years of dealing with Cam and his wife, I had no idea of what they have been experiencing. Here's a something I didn't know was taking place in the NFL in recent years:

      Here's another article that I found:

      Cleeland's Post-NFL Battle With Concussions
      by Alex Marvez
      July 10, 2010...
      -01-02-2011, 08:01 AM
    • Mykel
      Cam Cleeland, A modern day hero
      by Mykel

      Motorist died upon arrival at hospital

      By John Clayton

      Athletes commonly react on instinct. Unsigned Rams tight end Cam Cleeland risked his life on May 23 to help save someone else's.

      Cleeland, 28, and his wife, Mindy, were driving along a road they travel every day in Mount Vernon, Wash. He spotted a fire off the road near a stand of trees and soon realized a passenger was in a burning car and needed help.

      Cleeland, speaking publicly about the accident for the first time, described his courageous but futile attempt to save the life of Timothy Roth, a 22-year-old motorist who was trapped in the front seat of his burning 1994 Ford Taurus.

      "It was an unbelievable situation," Cleeland said. "I was coming back from a softball game, and driving along Little Mountain Road. I was coming around the road and there was a car. And there was a fire."

      Cleeland's wife, Mindy, dialed 911 on their cell phone while Cam rushed to the car. The fire was getting worse and Cleeland reacted.

      The car was lodged and elevated between two 100-foot fir trees.

      "The bottom of the window was eye-level for me," the 6-foot-5 Cleeland said. "He must have flown over the ditch and landed in the trees. I tried to rip the door off, but it was tough because the car was pinned between two trees."

      Cars passed by and some older witnesses were around, but only Cleeland had the youth and courage to react. It was going to take time for the fire trucks and police to arrive.

      "I was throwing dirt on him and trying to put out the fire," Cleeland said. "I also tried to keep talking to him. He could only nod his head. I was panicking. I got to thinking that this car could blow up."

      The air bag in the Taurus opened, and Cleeland had to pull it away from Roth's face because the bag was on fire.

      "He was pinned in there," Cleeland said. "I pushed the air bag away from his face and tried to keep talking to him to help him as best I [could]."

      Another person soon arrived with a fire extinguisher. He and Cleeland worked to stop the flame. Soon, the fire truck arrived. It took 20 minutes to get Roth out of the car with the Jaws of Life.

      Roth died once he arrived at the hospital.

      Cleeland and his wife have been shaken up since the incident. There were no injuries to Cleeland's hands, but he did suffer some smoke inhalation. addition, there was an emotional toll.

      "I still have nightmares," Cleeland said.

      -06-02-2004, 09:43 AM
    • RamWraith
      Rams get healthy at linebacker
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch

      Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, who was back at practice Friday, emphasized that it would take a lot more than an elbow infection to sideline him for Sunday's key NFC West contest at Seattle.

      "It wasn't going to stop me from playing this weekend," he said. "It's too big of a game."

      Coach Mike Martz indicated Thursday that Tinoisamoa would be hospitalized overnight for treatment, but that wasn't necessary.

      "They just gave him some IVs here" at Rams Park, Martz said, "and he came in this morning and was really much, much, much better. So, there's not a problem. We're relieved, of course."

      Fellow linebacker Robert Thomas, who's been nursing a sore ankle, also returned to the field Friday and will start Sunday.

      Groce finally healthy:

      After recovering from a matching set of sprained knees - he injured his left in training camp and his right three weeks ago vs. Atlanta - cornerback DeJuan Groce finally is healthy again.

      "I feel a lot better," Groce said. "I've been pushing it more this week. I'm getting my confidence back and I'm able to not think about (the injuries) and just play."

      Martz saw enough progress that he returned Groce to the No. 1 spot at right corner, where he started the first two games of the season. Kevin Garrett started alongside left corner Jerametrius Butler last Sunday in San Francisco.

      "Homecoming" for Cleeland:

      Increasingly, retirement was looking like an attractive option for Rams tight end Cam Cleeland during the offseason. The custom home design and construction business that he'd started with his brother-in-law in the Seattle area was taking off, plus nobody was dangling the multi-year contract that Cleeland sought.

      "I definitely thought about retiring," said Cleeland, 29. "I've always been good at building and design. We've done four or five houses now, and just finished my own personal house. It's a lot of fun. . . .

      "But as long as football is working out and I get the opportunity, I'll take advantage of it."

      The Rams' trip to the Pacific Northwest for Sunday's game against the Seahawks is a welcome journey for Cleeland, who holds a sociology degree from the University of Washington and lives in Mount Vernon, about an hour's drive north of Seattle. "I'll have a bunch of family and friends there," he said. "It'll be a little homecoming."

      Cleeland decided in March to accept the Rams' one-year offer. "You want to do something you love to do and come into work every day and like to do it," he said. "Our careers are short. You just hope to enjoy it."

      He said that...
      -10-08-2004, 08:04 PM