No announcement yet.

Long shots make their mark with Rams

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Long shots make their mark with Rams

    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.

    Sump made a name for himself at the School of Mines as a wide receiver and kick returner. He was a two-time special teams player of the year in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, returning six kicks for touchdowns (five kickoffs and one punt). Despite those achievements, Sump realizes he was a big fish in a small pond.

    "I played Division II ball in a notably weak conference," he said. "I only played one year of football in high school, so I didn't have a lot of offers coming out. It was just a chance to play."

    His lack of experience showed last summer, when he tried to land a job with San Diego as a rookie free agent.

    "It was tough," Sump said. "I struggled a little bit, and I had a lot to learn.."

    He was cut after camp, and was out of football until making the Los Angeles Avengers team last spring in the Arena Football League. (Sump never played for the Avengers because of a back injury.)

    With the Rams, Sump faces the daunting task of trying to crack one of the best wide receiver corps in the NFL. Sump looks quick and has displayed good hands on the practice field. But exactly who is he going to beat out among the Rams' wideouts? Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Dane Looker, Mike Furrey, Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis all figure to be around for a while.

    "You can only do the things you can do." Sump said. "And control the things that you can control. Hopefully, good things will happen."

    P Jesse Nicassio: Learning from a legend

    Nicassio was 2 years old when current teammate Sean Landeta launched his first professional punt, for the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL.

    "He's a great man," Nicassio said. "To come into camp and be under a guy like that is a great opportunity for me to learn more."

    But Landeta, 42, can't last forever, can he?

    "Maybe," Nicassio said, laughing.

    What must he do to beat out Landeta? "Punt well. Punt very, very well," Nicassio said.

    He may be a neophyte by Landeta standards, but Nicassio has been punting well for a while. As a sixth-grader for the Oak Park (Calif.) Chargers little league team, Nicassio and his teammates were instructed to line up and try kickoffs.

    "Whoever kicked it the furthest was the kicker," Nicassio said. "The next thing I knew, I was the kicker."

    A year or two later, he was taking lessons. By the time he was a high school freshman, his goal was a college scholarship. He got that scholarship - just not right away.

    Nicassio walked on at Washington State, and then came to the realization that he'd never get a chance there. After one season, he transferred to Citrus Junior College in Glendora, Calif. After two seasons in the JC ranks, he got a scholarship to Eastern Washington - summer home of the Seattle Seahawks. Nicassio made it a habit of watching Tom Rouen punt for the Seahawks during camp.

    "I knew I could easily punt in the NFL after watching," said Nicassio, not lacking for confidence.

    Even though he finished fourth in the NCAA in punting last season with a school-record 44.4-yard average, he went undrafted.

    "But I knew I'd get my chance, and when I did, I'd shine," Nicassio said. "That's all I want. I just want a chance."

    TE Mike Brake: The "Emergency" Brake

    Sometimes, the best way to make an NFL roster is to win a battle of attrition. That strategy might work out for Brake. While veteran Cam Cleeland (hamstring) and seventh-round draft pick Erik Jensen (knee) were sidelined with injuries for most of the Rams' time in Macomb, Brake was making his presence felt.

    "It's unfortunate that those two guys went down," Brake said. "But that gives me a chance to get out there and show what I can do."

    Brake, who played his college ball at Akron, has good size at 6-4, 256. He sometimes looks awkward on the practice field. And he occasionally gets overpowered as a blocker. But he keeps finding a way to catch the football.

    Brake had a 24-yard reception against Chicago in last week's exhibition game. With the injuries to Cleeland and Jensen, he has become the No. 2 tight end behind Brandon Manumaleuna. That has led to plenty of time on the practice field with the starters over the past two weeks - and more and more balls thrown his way.

    So far, the mental part of the game has been as challenging as the physical for Brake.

    "Each day, there's something new going in," Brake said. "You've got to keep on top of it. If you slow down for a bit, then you're going to be lost. The big challenge for me is just keeping mentally into it every day.

    "I've made my mistakes. You've just got to learn from them. The one thing that Coach (Mike Martz) doesn't like is making the same mistake twice. So I've been avoiding that as much as I can."

    In college, Brake was used primarily as a blocker in his first three seasons for the Zips. But that changed as a senior, when he caught 28 balls for 459 yards and five TDs. He didn't get drafted. He didn't even get invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. But at the moment, he has a good chance of make the Rams' roster as the No. 3 tight end.

    "All I want is an opportunity," he said. "I'm getting that. You can't ask for anything more."

  • #2
    Re: Long shots make their mark with Rams

    that was a good read. thanks for posting it.


    • #3
      Re: Long shots make their mark with Rams

      very welcome ;-)

      Originally posted by tanus
      that was a good read. thanks for posting it.


      Related Topics


      • RamWraith
        Rams long shots bring hope to practice
        by RamWraith
        By Jim Thomas

        Every morning, safety Andre Kirkland shows up for work at Rams Park, walks into the locker room, looks into his locker stall and gazes upon his jersey sporting No. 43.

        He tells himself: "OK, I got another day. Thank you, Lord, for another day."

        Kirkland earned second-team Mid-American Conference honors last season at Kent State but did not get drafted. The Rams signed him as a rookie free agent May 2, and ever since he has received a steady stream of calls and text messages from friends. They want to know anything and everything about the Rams.

        "Like, 'How big is Steven Jackson?'" Kirkland said. "Or, 'Who's better? Torry or Isaac?'"

        Kirkland faces an uphill struggle, to put it mildly, trying to make the squad in St. Louis. Corey Chavous and Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe are firmly entrenched as the starting safeties. Jerome Carter and Todd Johnson appear to have a stranglehold on the backup jobs. At best, Kirkland is fighting for the No. 5 spot, but there's a chance the Rams will keep only four safeties.

        "I try not to look at the numbers," Kirkland said. "They say when you do, that's when you're out the door. I just try to do my job. If I don't make it here, hopefully, I'll make it somewhere else. All the veterans say that you're auditioning for all the teams, all 32."

        In the meantime, Kirkland is trying to enjoy every moment in the NFL.

        "It's everything I've dreamed about and prayed about," Kirkland said. "I walk in there every day, and I'm like, 'Man! I'm an NFL player.'"

        Kirkland is one of several long shots trying to make the Rams' roster. Some others:

        Last season, John David Washington was a novelty. Undrafted out of Morehouse College, he attracted lots of attention during training camp, but not because he's the only player in Morehouse history to rush for 1,100 yards-plus in two seasons. He's the son of Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington.

        But this season, Washington is just another of the guys. A football player trying to earn a job in the NFL.

        "I feel comfortable here, definitely, with my teammates," Washington said. "They understand that I'm here to play ball. I'm not here to act like I'm playing ball. I'm not in Hollywood. This is what I've been wanting to do since I was a little boy. So I do feel a lot more comfortable with my dad out of the picture, so to speak."

        His father, the famous actor, still attends as many Rams exhibition games as possible. In fact, he attended the team's preseason opener last week in Minnesota. But Denzel Washington has a way of avoiding attention.

        "I don't think he really understood, either, until...
        -08-17-2007, 07:15 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Tripucka's Sports Dream Runs In The Family
        by r8rh8rmike
        Tripucka's sports dream runs in the family

        BY DAN O'NEILL
        Tuesday, May 29, 2012

        Growing up in Boonton Township, N.J., Travis Tripucka wanted to play basketball. Specifically, he wanted to play basketball at the University of Notre Dame, just like his dad.

        His dad is Kelly Tripucka, among the more celebrated athletes ever to come out of Notre Dame. He was a three-time All-American for the Irish (from 1979 to 1981), a member of Notre Dame's All-Century basketball team.

        He was a first-round pick in the 1981 NBA draft and went on to a distinguished professional career. In 2000, the Newark Star-Ledger named him the New Jersey boys basketball player of the century and in 2008 he was named to Detroit's "50 Greatest Pistons" team.

        Like any son might, Travis wanted nothing more than to retrace his father's footsteps. "I've looked up to him since the day I was born," Travis said. "He's my hero."

        But as Joni Mitchell sings in "The Circle Game," "We can't return, we can only look behind; from where we came."

        Travis can't be exactly like his dad, literally. He can only be four inches shorter. Kelly Tripucka is 6-feet-6, Travis is 6-2, and while Travis was a fine basketball player at Mountain Lakes High, he was not a "Player of the Century."

        "I was OK," he said. "I was a double-double guy. I liked to mess around in there down low, even though I didn't have the big body of a power forward. I liked to use my smarts down low, that I got from my father."

        Tripucka also played tight end and defensive end for the Mountain Lakes football team. But his best sport was lacrosse. There would have to be a slight adjustment to the path. No problem, Notre Dame has a lacrosse team.

        "That's where I wanted to go since I was 3 years old," Travis said. "That was the only place I wanted to go. But the academics got a little too demanding. It's a tough school to get into. They want at least a 1300 on your academic boards, which I didn't have."

        Travis Tripucka couldn't return, he could only look behind. No need for apologies. The Notre Dame son attended the University of Massachusetts instead. He spent long hours in study halls, maintained a 3.0 grade-point average and became an All-New England Scholar-Athlete.

        "I could have gone to Notre Dame, but I'm really glad I stuck with U- Mass because I did things at UMass that I never would have been able to do at Notre Dame," Tripucka said. "It was a great experience for me."

        Tripucka continued playing lacrosse at UMass, becoming a stout defender for the Minutemen. It's a sport that caught on with rest of the family, as well. Travis' younger brother, Jake, was a junior midfielder for the highly ranked, NCAA championship-contending...
        -05-29-2012, 10:25 AM
      • RamWraith
        Long shots hope to defy the odds, stick with Rams
        by RamWraith
        By Jim Thomas
        Of the Post-Dispatch
        Tuesday, Aug. 23 2005

        The "Turk" isn't here yet, but he's on his way. By Aug. 30, NFL rosters must be
        trimmed to 65. By Sept. 4, each roster shrinks to the regular-season limit of

        So in less than two weeks, one out of every three players currently practicing
        with the Rams will be out of a job. For some, these next few days will be their
        last in professional football.

        Until then, there's always hope. Hope that they can survive the roster
        cutdowns, and maybe - just maybe - become the next London Fletcher or Kurt
        Warner. Here's our annual look at some Rams roster long shots hoping to beat
        the odds:

        Jeremy Calahan: The next Zgonina?

        He has a stocky frame, thick calves, and wears jersey No. 90. If only Calahan
        were crabby on a regular basis, he'd be a dead ringer for Jeff Zgonina. The
        Rams thought so, too.

        "They took a picture of me and sent it to Zgonina as kind of a joke," Calahan

        The picture, taken in the Rams' indoor practice facility, shows defensive line
        coach Bill Kollar with his arm around Calahan. Zgonina, now with Miami, wore
        jersey No. 90 in five seasons with the Rams.

        "I didn't know (about the similarities) until I'd seen him on film," Calahan
        said. "The guy's just massive. He's huge. And he's a great player. I hope one
        day I can be at his level."

        At Rice, Calahan started three games as a true freshman, and was a full-time
        starter his final three college seasons. He's a hustle player who has shown a
        good inside push at times on the practice field. For a while, it looked as
        though he might give Brian Howard a run for the fourth defensive tackle spot
        behind first-round draft picks Ryan Pickett, Jimmy Kennedy, and Damione Lewis.
        But the arrival of 13-year NFL veteran John Parrella may change the depth-chart

        Not that it seems to matter to Calahan.

        "I'm having the time of my life," he said recently. "I think I fit in well with
        Coach Kollar. He's an effort and hard-work guy. He got me in here. So I'm just
        loving it. Just living a dream."

        If it doesn't work out, Calahan might start pursuing another dream - as the
        next super agent, or the next Jay Zygmunt. He already has his degree in
        economics, sports management and business management.

        Clifford Dukes: Spartan spirit

        Five years ago, Dukes and Rams quarterback Jeff Smoker entered Michigan State

        "I redshirted, so he left school a year before me," Dukes said. "We were
        actually suite-mates. Freshman...
        -08-24-2005, 05:51 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
      • MauiRam
        Possible sleeper in the late rds??
        by MauiRam
        School of hard knocks
        Injuries, adversity have made Ducks' Colvin stronger
        Posted: Friday March 14, 2008 9:35AM; Updated: Friday March 14, 2008 3:00PM

        Speedy receiver Cameron Colvin showed flashes of brilliance in his career at Oregon and hopes to impress NFL types at the Ducks' Pro Day next week.
        Icon SMI

        By Stewart Mandel,

        Like a lot of college seniors, Oregon's Cameron Colvin has a job interview next Thursday. In fact, he'll be auditioning for multiple employers on the same day. Like most of those peers, Colvin would really like to ace his interview. In fact, he's spent the past several months preparing for it. Unlike the typical college senior, however, Colvin has to ace this interview. It may be his one and only chance to enter the profession of his choosing.

        If things had worked out as planned for the former Ducks receiver, there would not be so much riding on this singular performance at his school's 2008 Pro Day, where he will run, lift, catch passes and perform other assorted drills in front of the watchful eyes of NFL personnel men. Like a Chris Long or Darren McFadden the audition would barely affect his draft status.

        Colvin, however, was not even among the 330-plus players invited to last month's NFL Scouting Combine. The Web site lists him 61st among receiver prospects. TFY Draft analyst (and contributor) Tony Pauline puts it bluntly: "He's not going to get drafted."

        Oh, and did we mention Colvin is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered last October?

        If any of this has dissuaded the cheery, soft-spoken 22-year-old Pittsburg, Calif., native from pursuing his NFL dreams, he hasn't shown it. If so, he would not have spent the past two months shuttling back and forth between Eugene, where he is in the midst of completing a degree in political science, and Florida, where he trains with a former Olympic gold-medalist.

        "I'm one of the most motivated people on the planet," said Colvin. "A lot of people go through their whole lives not knowing what they want to do. I've always known I was born to be an NFL receiver."

        When you've endured as many personal tragedies and setbacks as Colvin, the thought of disproving an entire league full of skeptics probably seems like a walk in the park.


        Over the past decade, football fans have become increasingly obsessed with two rituals that take place away from the gridiron: National Signing Day and the NFL Draft. Colvin's once-certain rise to stardom dovetailed somewhere between the former and the latter.

        Four years ago, the De La Salle (Calif.) receiver was such a hot commodity that his Signing-Day press conference was broadcast live on SportsCenter. With his godfather and mentor, Jay Lightner, by his side, Colvin...
        -03-15-2008, 03:47 PM