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Priory graduate vies for offensive-line slot

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  • Priory graduate vies for offensive-line slot

    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    MACOMB, Ill. - From Priory to Penn to pro football ... it's been an interesting journey for Ben Noll, a Rams fan who is trying to become a Rams employee.

    "I grew up watching these guys, and it's fun to be able to get to know them as individuals, not just football players, not just talented athletes," said Noll, 22. "That's a special feeling for me."

    Noll, a 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle from Wildwood, is an undrafted rookie who signed with the Rams last month. He was a member of the 1999 Post-Dispatch All-Metro team while at Priory and then twice was an All-Ivy League pick at Pennsylvania.

    He came to camp at Western Illinois University as a distant long shot to make the team, but injuries have depleted the offensive line and he's getting significant reps. Asked to evaluate his play so far, Noll - a reluctant interviewee - said, "Oh, I'll leave that up to the coaches to decide. I'm just out there having a good time, trying to get better every day."

    Noll chose Penn over more prominent football schools because he wanted to get away from the Midwest for a while and because it "had the right fit for me, in terms of academics and football and other things that I found important in the college experience."

    And, he pointed out, the Ivy League produces some good players: He noted proudly that every school in the league has at least one representative in the NFL. "There's not necessarily the depth there would be at other schools," Noll said, "but there are a couple of guys on each team that are impact players and get a shot in NFL camps, like myself."

    If pro football doesn't work out, Noll will have something solid to fall back on. He's in the process of completing a degree from Penn's famed Wharton School of Business.

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  • RamWraith
    Long shots make their mark with Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Long shots, like CB Dwight Anderson (above), are taking full advantage of their chance to try and make the Rams roster.
    (Chris Lee/P-D)

    MACOMB, Ill. - NFL players come in all shapes and sizes, and from all kinds of colleges. But whether you come from South Carolina, or South Dakota . . . Colorado, or Colorado School of Mines . . . Washington, or Eastern Washington . . . Arizona, or Akron . . . if you're good enough to get a chance, you just may get a job.

    With three exhibition games remaining, and cutdown days fast approaching, here's a look at four roster long shots trying to latch on with the Rams:

    CB Dwight Anderson: Traveling Jamaican

    Anderson didn't grow up dreaming of the NFL in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Heck, you couldn't even watch it on television.

    "It was either cricket, soccer, or track," he said.

    Anderson's sports were soccer and track - even after he moved to the United States in 1992 at age 11. But one day at Bloomfield (Conn.) High, he watched the football team practice and was intrigued.

    "I want to try that," he told himself.

    Not surprisingly, he was a kicker as a freshman.

    "Sophomore year, I started playing wide receiver and DB," Anderson said. "The (varsity) coach saw me playing JV, and he was like, 'All right, we're going to move you up. See what you can do up here on the varsity level.' And from there, it just exploded."

    Anderson, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., played junior college ball at Arizona Western in Yuma. He finished college with the South Dakota Coyotes, and now he's been to Macomb and St. Louis trying to make the Rams' roster as an undrafted rookie.

    "I've been going across the country," Anderson said. "I've almost done all 50 states now. I'm having fun with it."

    If the Rams keep five corners, he has a chance. If not . . .

    "I think I've got a chance," Anderson said. "If I just keep working hard, something's going to pay off. I'm not really thinking about getting cut."

    Anderson looks the part. He has 4.35 speed and doesn't seem overwhelmed on the field. What he needs is work on technique and focus. And no more silly penalties, like his costly holding penalty last week against Chicago.

    "It was an iffy call," Anderson said. "But you know the refs, they're cutting down on a lot of that holding."

    WR Brian Sump: Building a career

    With about a semester's worth of additional work at the Colorado School of Mines, Sump will earn his degree in civil engineering. He's in no hurry. Before he starts building dams and bridges, he'd like to build an NFL career.

    -08-20-2004, 06:12 AM
  • RamsFan16
    Washington has tough act to follow
    by RamsFan16
    Washington has tough act to follow
    By Bill Coats

    J.D. Washington is trying to make the jump from Division II Morehouse College to the Rams.
    (Marlene Karas/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

    Though he was working on his latest film in New Orleans, actor Denzel Washington hustled back to Beverly Hills a couple of weekends ago so that he could sit with the oldest of his four children and ... wait for the phone to ring?

    But this wasn't just any call. John David Washington, a record-setting running back at NCAA Division II Morehouse College who goes by "J.D.," had been told he might get a shot at the NFL. And when the Rams called shortly after the draft, offering J.D. a free-agent contract and a chance, Denzel led a raucous celebration.

    It was no act, J.D. assured, even for a world-renowned actor whose two Oscar statues loomed nearby.

    "I believe he and my mother were more excited than I was," he said. "They were running all up and down the hallways in the house, calling everybody. They're very excited."

    J.D. Washington is among 19 rookies who will get their first taste of the NFL during a three-day minicamp beginning this morning at Rams Park. Two practices are scheduled for today and Sunday, with a final workout set for Monday. All sessions are closed to the public.

    Washington, 5 feet 9 and 190 pounds, holds Morehouse records for rushing yards in a game (242), season (1,198) and career (3,699). He was the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's offensive player of the week six times and an all-conference selection after his senior season.

    The chasm between Division II and the NFL is wide and deep, he acknowledged. "Everything's going to be so much faster, from the terminology to the play on the field," he said. "I've got to pick it up fast. I'm ready for it, though."

    Washington, 21, described his leading assets as "my vision and quickness. I try to make people miss as much as possible. That's basically how I play."

    Undrafted free agents face long odds, but Washington noted that his father started at the bottom, too. "It's a parallel, exactly," J.D. said. "He started with TV and then he got his big leap."

    Denzel Washington's career began to blossom during a six-year run on the television drama "St. Elsewhere" in the 1980s. After turning to movies, he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1989 for "Glory" and was named best actor in 2001 for "Training Day."

    J.D. said that at times it's difficult to fully grasp his father's fame. "Honestly, you forget about how big he is," he said. "When we're in our house, it's just family. I've got my mom,...
    -05-13-2006, 08:31 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Give Area Kids Reason to Dream
    by RamWraith
    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    By Collaborating With Area Youth Football Organizations, Rams Deliver Important Message of Teamwork

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    On just about any fall weekend, there are hundreds of young people playing football all over St. Louis with dreams of one day strapping on a helmet and lacing up their shoes for the hometown Rams.

    Those dreams are some of the most difficult to obtain because of how hard it is to make it in professional sports, but without the aid of that aforementioned hometown team, those young people might not have the opportunity to dream at all.

    As one of the Rams’ cornerstone programs, youth football is one of the constant passions of the organization within the community. The goal is simple, the Rams, in conjunction with the NFL want to “enhance, promote and recognize the positive aspects of football at every level.”

    The steps to reaching that goal, however, are not so simple. In fact, it is downright difficult. That’s why the Rams have teamed up with the St. Louis/Tom Lombardo chapter of the National Football Foundation to work on many of their youth football initiatives.

    Michael Yarbrough, Manager of Community Outreach and Player Involvement for the Rams, is a key cog of the youth football programs in the area. As the representative from the team that is most closely associated with youth football, Yarbrough serves as a sort of liaison between the groups.

    “Participation in youth football transcends geographic, economic, ethnic and even gender categories,” Yarbrough said. “As a true team sport, it provides an opportunity for young men and women to learn and live the values necessary to build strong character and community.”

    The National Football Foundation, which is closely associated with the College Football Hall of Fame, is actively involved in a number of youth football initiatives in St. Louis. Through the tireless efforts of the many volunteers and the Rams’ organization, youth football has made tremendous strides in the St. Louis area.

    Bob Bunton, the president of the local chapter of the National Football Foundation, said the improvements made since the Rams arrived in St. Louis in 1995 are tremendous.

    “I am old enough to where I was affiliated with the Junior Football League when it was called the Junior Cardinal League,” Bunton said. “The football boomed when the Cardinals came to town and then as their demise was met here, so was youth football. It’s booming again here because of the Rams. Now, kids have heroes to watch and heroes to emulate. With that boom comes this responsibility that we expose kids to the proper heroes.”

    That is where the National Football Foundation and the Amateur Football Council (AFCO) come into play. As the umbrella organization, the National Football Foundation joined with the...
    -06-14-2005, 05:55 PM
  • MauiRam
    Going One-on-One with Jake McQuaide ..
    by MauiRam
    By Patty Hsieh
    July 13, 2012

    This week, we continue our player interview series with second-year long snapper Jake McQuaide. McQuaide took a similar route, walking onto the team at Ohio State. He tells us about his transition from tight end to his current position, about being a professional in this league and how long snappers are unique football players.

    Ohio Football

    McQuaide learned the basics of long snapping his first year of playing football in the sixth grade. It was then that a coach on his junior varsity team, who had previously played the position at Ohio University, literally taught him how to snap a football.

    “Coming out of high school I could have played tight end in a small school,” said McQuaide. “You may not know a lot about Cincinnati football, but high school football is a big deal.” I knew it came close to Texan-type proportions, but I didn’t know exactly how big until he dropped this little number on me.

    “I’m from Elder (High School) and our stadium held 11,000 people,” he said. That roughly equals double the student body of my alma mater, Washington University. Double! There are times where I wish I had gone to a Division I school, and none more so than during football season.

    “I didn’t want to go somewhere where football wasn’t important to people. I had an opportunity to walk on at Ohio State where I wouldn’t be playing tight end.” Switching positions would seem like a sacrifice, but when you love to play the game you want to be a part of it and, in his case, a part of the great Buckeye football tradition.

    The immediate question that comes to mind is why couldn’t he play tight end at Ohio State? Well ... there just happened to be a guy by the name of Ballard. Jake Ballard. Heard of him, have you?

    “The tight end in my class was Jake Ballard (former New York Giant and current New England Patriot). He’s like 6-7 or 6-8 and weighs 265-270 pounds. As soon as I got to Ohio State, I knew tight end is out the window. But I can be a part of the team and I can find my niche at long snapper. I worked from there and learned from the older guys there.”

    And he did just that as he handled long snapping duties for three years during his tenure in Columbus. For the record, McQuaide is listed as 6-2 and 247 pounds. He could have easily played tight end at a lesser college football institution, but something tells me he doesn’t regret making that decision.

    On Being Professional

    It was only a year ago that McQuaide was on the other side looking in. Then incumbent long-time veteran long snapper Chris Massey was about to start his 10th season with the team and McQuaide came into camp as the undrafted rookie.

    I asked him if this offseason feels different now that he has a year of experience under his belt. His answer didn’t surprise me at all. In fact, the first...
    -07-14-2012, 11:53 AM
  • Tampa_Ram
    Steeples chasing dream in his hometown
    by Tampa_Ram
    Steeples Chasing Dream in His Hometown

    Posted 2 hours ago
    Nick Wagoner Senior Writer

    Given the choice amongst any team anywhere in the NFL to get his first opportunity as a professional, Robert Steeples had little doubt which would rank No. 1 in his heart.
    The cornerback, who grew up in Florissant and played his high school ball at DeSmet, went through a childhood that fed him a steady diet of Rams football. And not just any Rams football but around the time a young Steeples was first really getting into the game just so happened to be the same time the Greatest Show on Turf was hitting its crescendo.
    Steeples loved the Rams then, cheering for the likes of Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Az-Zahir Hakim, Marshall Faulk and, of course, his favorite player Todd Lyght. Lyght was the team’s top cover corner and Steeples had always loved the position.
    The former Missouri and Memphis cornerback entered this year’s draft with some hopes that he’d be selected in the later rounds as a best case scenario. But he had prepared for the worst-case; a situation in which he wasn’t drafted and faced the decision of where he could go that he would fit in best.
    Steeples sat down with his advisors and formulated a list of the top 15 potential destinations for him; taking into account the quality of the corners in place, the depth at the position on the existing rosters and the people in place who could help him improve his game.
    Taking emotion out of the equation, Steeples’ heart and head happened to meet right here in his hometown.
    “We did our homework because one thing I can control if I don’t get drafted is you have some decisions to make when free agency comes,” Steeples said. “So we had a board of 15 teams and ranked them and the Rams were No. 1 on my list and they were one of the first teams to call. So once one called and a couple other teams called, it was like the first choice called and gave you what you want so might as well go there. It just so happened to be in my backyard.”
    Soon after the draft, Steeples agreed to a free-agent contract with the Rams, passing on offers from a handful of other teams and coming to the one place he’d dreamed of playing since he started out in the game at the age of 6.
    Over the weekend, Steeples arrived at Rams Park to take part in the team’s rookie minicamp. After months of working out here in town at the Elite Football Academy, Steeples and the rest of the rookies finally got the chance to get back on an actual football field for actual football drills that didn’t involve running 40 yards as fast as possible in ...
    -05-13-2013, 03:50 PM