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Running back McGrorty is eager for his audition

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  • Running back McGrorty is eager for his audition

    Running back McGrorty is eager for his audition
    By Bill Coats

    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - Take the population of Dusty McGrorty's hometown - Warrenton, Ore. - and combine it with the enrollment of his college - the University of Southern Oregon - and the total would be less than one-fifth of the crowd that's expected to show up Thursday night for the Rams' exhibition opener vs. the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome.

    McGrorty, an undrafted running back, never has performed before such a large audience. And he could get plenty of work, with Marshall Faulk not expected to participate and Lamar Gordon shelved after ankle surgery.

    But the unexcitable McGrorty views it as just another step toward the big time. He already has been through two minicamps and two weeks of training camp.

    His first taste of the NFL is "a huge change for me, especially coming from an NAIA school," said McGrorty, 5 feet 10 and 218 pounds. "The speed and the strength and the size of the players is a big difference. I'm just glad I'm getting a shot at the next level."

    The Rams probably will keep five backs: Faulk, Gordon, Arlen Harris, Steven Jackson and fullback Joey Goodspeed. Still, McGrorty is making a positive impression.

    "You can't have the yards that he had in college and not have something to you," coach Mike Martz said. "He's a real stout, strong guy ... hard to bring down. He's got speed, too. He can get around the corner."

    McGrorty rushed for 5,414 yards at Southern Oregon. As a senior, he piled up 1,702 yards and 22 touchdowns and became the NAIA record-holder for career rushing TDs with 75.

    Warrenton has about 4,000 residents, and the football squad numbered about 25. McGrorty was in on just about every down, playing middle linebacker on defense.

    "I was the punter, too," he said.

    Major-college recruiters didn't often get to Warrenton, so McGrorty headed for Southern Oregon, which has about 5,000 students. He earned a business degree and a phone call from the Rams, who are using him at tailback and fullback.

    "This is a great opportunity for me," McGrorty said, "just to see if I am good enough to play in the league."

    A long day

    The day began for Jason Lenzmeier, the Rams' latest addition to their dwindling offensive line, at 4 a.m. in Boise, Idaho. It included a flight to Peoria, a 90-minute drive to Macomb, a 2-hour 20-minute practice, plus 20 extra minutes of instruction with Jackie Slater.

    "I haven't even had lunch," said the 6-foot-4, 300-pound rookie from the University of New Mexico when he trudged off the field at Western Illinois University at about 6:45 p.m.

    Lenzmeier, a native of Frisco, Texas, was tossed right into the action during the full-pads workout.

    "We're down to just a handful of linemen," Martz noted.

    With guard Adam Timmerman nursing a sore shoulder, only one of the five first-teamers took part in contract drills. That was Andy McCollum, normally a guard who has shifted to center while Dave Wohlabaugh recovers from offseason hip surgery.

    Orlando Pace remains absent because of a contract dispute, and fellow tackle Kyle Turley has been gone for more than a week while he has his sore back evaluated. Lenzmeier is the third offensive lineman, following NFL veterans Greg Randall and Chris Dishman, to sign with the Rams since the start of camp.

    "I'm two weeks behind, so I have to play catch up," said Lenzmeier, who was signed by San Diego but released in early July when several veterans were brought in. "Definitely there's an opportunity here. I hope I can take advantage of it."

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking