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  • Brake, Howard Overcome Odds

    Monday, September 6, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    It was probably the most agonizing day of their young lives, certainly of their infant careers. When most people apply for jobs, they sit idly by the phone, waiting for it to ring with good news from the other end. That is nerve-racking enough, but it could be worse.

    What if you’re future employment was determined by the phone not ringing? The Labor Day weekend was no holiday for many Rams, as they hoped and prayed that their phone wouldn’t make a peep. Longshots dreamt of becoming the next Cinderella story, while some grizzled veterans hardened themselves for the possibility of bad news.

    A pair of young, unknown and undrafted players sat in the Four Points Sheraton, a stone’s throw from Rams Park, as phones rang in their neighbors’ rooms, telling others their dream became a nightmare. When 3 p.m. rolled around, Mike Brake and Brian Howard hadn’t received phone calls, not from anyone with the power to tell them they couldn’t play, anyway.

    “You don’t want that phone to ring,” Howard said. “It was hard those last couple days to just sit in your hotel room, hopefully not hearing the phone ring. It’s kind of an interesting deal.”

    It wasn’t long after 3 p.m., however, before the two put their phones to use. This time, they would be the bearer of the news, all good. As their families sat in their respective homes awaiting word, they knew could be two calls away from disappointment or one call away from sheer joy. For the Howard and Brake families, it was the latter.

    The long and winding road to the National Football League can take a young player in a number of directions. For Brake, that road went through the University of Akron and Howard’s path led him through the University of Idaho. Neither school was exactly Miami or USC. The two unheralded players didn’t let their lack of football pedigree push them away from their dreams, though.

    Brake, a tight end, signed with the Rams on April 30, not long after the NFL Draft, but long enough to start worrying about where he might end up. His numbers for the Zips were nothing to crow about, as he finished with 49 catches for 736 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 256 pounds, Brake has good size for a tight end, but size doesn’t mean much without opportunity.

    During the summer, Brake became frustrated because he got few opportunities to make an impression on the coaching staff. A lack of repetitions left Brake wondering where he stood entering training camp. The whole experience was new to Brake. He knew he had the talent to play, but he had no chances to prove it.

    “I knew I could do the stuff that some of the guys that were getting reps were doing,” Brake said. “There were so many questions in my head. I got in there and got my chance and it’s a lot of hard work. It’s paying off right now.”

    When second-stringer Cameron Cleeland had hamstring injuries during camp, Brake finally got his chance. He took full advantage, having a series of solid practices where he seemed to catch most everything near him.

    Brake didn’t have any standout performances in the preseason games, making one catch for 24 yards, but with the release of Nick Burley on Aug. 28, left Brake as the third tight end on the roster. That gave Brake confidence and when the team didn’t bring in another one before the end of the preseason, it started to become clear that Brake had a realistic chance.

    As the deadline came and went to make the final cuts, Brake was finally ready to put his phone to use. After resisting urges to pull the phone out of the wall so nobody could reach him, he picked it up immediately and called Lindsay Jenkins, his fiancé, and then his parents in Ohio.

    Brake said it was a relief to use his phone for good news.

    “If they don’t call you, I assume I make the team,” Brake said. “It’s kind of weird, you don’t hear from anybody so you kind of know you’re good. You’re just checking the watch.”

    Howard, meanwhile, had plenty of concerns while waiting by the phone. His problem was his phone wouldn’t stop ringing. With each shrill chime, Howard wondered who would be on the other end. Instead of general manager Charlie Armey or another Rams’ official, it was always his mom Sherrie from central Washington. Howard estimates she called him every 10 minutes or so until the deadline. Finally, when the time came and went, Howard was able to break the good news to Sherrie.

    Howard said the realization set in that he made it soon after the deadline and he is just now beginning to fathom what happened.

    “Sometimes I felt confident (I could make it) and other days like I could be gone tomorrow, so it was pretty wishy-washy,” Howard said. “It’s pretty incredible. It’s something you’ve worked for and dreamed about your whole life. Now, it’s finally here.”

    Howard’s time as a Vandal in Idaho yielded solid numbers. He finished with 183 tackles, 29 for loss and 10 sacks. Born and raised in Washington, Howard provides the Rams with a blue-collar worker in the middle of the defensive line along the lines of Brian Young and Jeff Zgonina.

    Tyoka Jackson remembers what it was like to be in Howard and Brake’s shoes. He signed with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent in 1994. Now, 10 years later, he is not only on the roster, but team captain and a part of the heart and soul for the defending NFC Western Division champions.

    Jackson had some advice for his young protégé.

    I saw him yesterday and he was excited and I was excited for him,” Jackson said. “I do like to see the young guys succeed, especially a guy like Brian Howard, who worked so hard coming in unheralded and undrafted just like myself and he has got a chance to really be a good player.

    “He has to understand that just making the team, that’s not over. The journey is just now starting and things change on this roster every week. This is not college where you have got 100 guys on the team, either you’re going to play or you’re one bad snap away from playing. That’s just the way it is.”

  • #2
    Re: Brake, Howard Overcome Odds

    Howard provides the Rams with a blue-collar worker in the middle of the defensive line along the lines of Brian Young and Jeff Zgonina.
    If this is a fair comparison, our D-line should be in good shape.
    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Comment

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    • MauiRam
      Hay's Journey Just Beginning ..
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      At this weekend’s rookie minicamp, offensive lineman Michael Hay will be one of 39 bright-eyed youngsters hoping to make a strong first impression on the Rams’ coaching staff. The 38 others might want to be on the football field as much as Hay but none will need it more.

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      Like his rookie classmates, Hay loves football. The field represents a bit of a sanctuary, 100 yards of green solitude where the trials and tribulations of a bumpy past can be forgotten.

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      The answer wasn’t what he’d wanted to hear.

      “I had camp two weeks later and I told the surgeon that I have to be ready, I’ve got to get to camp,” Hay said. “He gave me a look, kind of smirked at me like ‘What is this kid thinking about right now?’ He told me ‘Honestly, I don’t know if you will ever play the game again.’ And I broke down in tears, looked at my mom and dad and said ‘I’m going to show him, I’m going to get back out there.’”

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      Instead, Hay decided to attend Division II C.W. Post in Long Island. During the summer of 2007, between the end of his high school career and the start of his college career, what he calls an ongoing war of “he said, she said” began to boil over.

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    • RamWraith
      Long shots make their mark with Rams
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      08/19/2004

      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)


      Advertisement
      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."

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      WR Brian Sump: Building a career

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    • RamDez
      Rams' Howard beats long odds to earn opening-day roster slot
      by RamDez
      Rams' Howard beats long odds to earn opening-day roster slot
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Saturday, Sep. 11 2004

      On a day when the last thing Rams rookie Brian Howard wanted to hear was the
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      Each time, he feared the worst - a team official telling him that he was among
      the last cuts. But each time, it was his anxious mother, Sherri St. Hilaire.

      "She was bugging me all day, calling me about every 10 minutes," said Howard,
      who in exasperation finally ordered her to stop and to wait for him to phone
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      At that hour the roster had to be set at 53 players. And because Howard hadn't
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      "All through minicamps and training camp, it's obviously a worry and a stress
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      Howard, 23, didn't show up with glitzy credentials. He never was an All-Big Sky
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      In training camp at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., Howard's reps
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      "That's obviously what you need, to get a shot and be able to make plays,"
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      Ultimately, Howard beat out eight-year NFL veteran Bernard Holsey to win his
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      Until he survived the last cut, Howard never had a concrete feeling about his
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    • RamWraith
      Howard feels bond with undrafted rookies
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      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Wednesday, Aug. 10 2005

      That second-year defensive tackle Brian Howard acknowledges a particular
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      The seven are undrafted free agents battling the odds during training camp in a
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      Howard showed up at Rams Park in April 2004 toting a slim resume. Not only had
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      But his reps increased when fellow tackle Jimmy Kennedy broke his foot early in
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      He wound up playing in 15 regular-season games - including one start - and both
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      Friday's game will be televised

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      Normally, a sellout must be achieved 72 hours before kickoff for the blackout
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      Anderson lands in Carolina

      It didn't take cornerback Dwight Anderson long to find work. Anderson, a...
      -08-11-2005, 05:29 AM
    • MauiRam
      Good story ... and apparently the Rams are interested ...
      by MauiRam
      ESPN.com: Page 2

      Friday, April 27, 2007
      Updated: May 1, 6:16 PM ET
      Glasper learns the hard lessons of football

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      By Alan Grant
      Special to Page 2

      There's a difference between pain and injury. Pain is fleeting. Even in various degrees of discomfort, it's possible to function at a very high level of competency. Any athlete knows this. But injury is lasting. Injury has the power to rob us of our dreams. Injury makes us mortal.

      Boston College safety Ryan Glasper, who went undrafted this weekend, knows pain. It's the kind of pain that accompanies many citizens of New Britain, Conn., or "Hard-Hittin' New Britain," as it's called. The city of 70,000, once a thriving factory town, is now known for its housing projects. As a kid, Glasper was innately rambunctious, engaging in activities like jumping off the second floor of a house onto a mattress. His mother, Brenda, suggested football was a great way to deal with his reckless sensibility. This proved a great solution. He was a natural at running into things.

      The family had what he calls financial difficulties.

      "I didn't really know it at the time," he says. "I was a happy kid. But looking back on it in retrospect, I can see we had it hard."

      When it became evident Brenda could no longer provide a home, Glasper's Pop Warner football coach contacted Jude Kelly, the football coach at Southington (Conn.) High School. He and Glasper's mother determined that the best thing for the young man was a change of address and a school district that offered him better opportunity for growth.

      Glasper moved into the Kelly residence and once classes began, so did the pain. There were only about five black kids in the school. His wardrobe was typical inner-city: Roca Wear, worn in a baggy style.


      After playing through a hip injury as a senior, Glasper went undrafted.

      "I wasn't wearing Abercrombie and Fitch," Glasper says. "I stood out, so they called me a thug."

      In the first week, one white student called Glasper the n-word.

      This led to a violent retort, the first of many. By the time that first semester ended, Glasper had been labeled a problem.

      "Let's just say I was written up a few times," Glasper says.

      He was something of a problem at home, too. Kelly was Catholic and attending mass was a regular habit for members of the Kelly household. But Glasper wanted no part of it, so he resisted the way any adolescent resists.

      "I used to call him Pope Kelly because he went to church so much," Glasper says. "If communion started at 11:40, I would argue with him until 11:35."

      But it takes just one...
      -05-02-2007, 12:17 PM
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