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  • Article on the Rams' new linebacker (Roper)

    Roper in a rush to make Steelers roster
    By Joe Starkey
    TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Sunday, August 8, 2004

    Mr. Roper's making a name for himself at Steelers camp.

    That would be rookie free-agent linebacker Dedrick Roper, who sparked the Steelers' interest with a stellar showing at the Whataburger Cactus Bowl.

    The Whataburger what?

    Relax. You've probably never heard of Roper's alma mater, either. He graduated from Northwood University in Midland, Mich.

    Roper considered himself lucky to join the Steelers in Latrobe and downright blessed to be running with the first-team defense a few days into camp.

    Injuries to Clark Haggans and Alonzo Jackson, who has since returned, afforded Roper a chance to open some eyes at the left outside slot.

    He didn't squander it, although he sustained a hyper-extended knee in practice Saturday and could miss a few days.

    Count coach Bill Cowher and ex-Steelers star Kevin Greene among those who've publicly praised Roper. "Fast and aggressive," Cowher said.

    Greene, who is working with the linebackers, ranks third on the NFL's all-time sacks list and views the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Roper as a potential quarterback slayer.

    "He's got a nice little shake about him when he's rushing on the perimeter, and he has a lot of power," Greene said. "He's running over some folks. I don't know what the coaches think; I can just tell you the kid has a motor."

    That's exactly what Northwood coach Pat Riepman used to say about Roper, who had 10 sacks his senior season and led the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with 19 tackles for losses.

    The Steelers took note of Roper in the NCAA Division II All-Star Game, otherwise known as the Whataburger Cactus Bowl.

    Roper, who said even people at the game never heard of Northwood, led the East with seven total tackles.

    Six months later, he was lining up next to Joey Porter, James Farrior and Kendrell Bell.

    And feeling quite comfortable. Roper figures to be in the race for the final linebacker slot, battling fifth-round draft pick Nathaniel Adibi and a few others.

    "I feel like I can keep up with these guys," he said. "Pass rush is my bread and butter. If I can't do anything else, man, I can rush the passer. That's my main focus."

    It always was, going back to Milpitas High School in Milpitas, Calif., where Roper blitzed on every play.

    He also played quarterback, fullback and wide receiver, and, for good measure, helped the school's 4X100 relay team win a sectional title.

    Colorado, Michigan State and pretty much the entire Pac-10 recruited Roper, but many backed off when he sustained a season-ending knee injury (sprained MCL) early in his senior season.

    He walked on at Michigan State in 1999 but after lettering two years became frustrated with his limited role and lack of a scholarship.

    "I didn't feel I was being utilized correctly," Roper said. "Then, in my final season, I got in there the last game (against Missouri) and I had seven tackles in the first quarter. After that, I was like, 'You know what? I'm done.' "

    Roper had no plans to continue his football career but reconsidered when a former Michigan State teammate who was playing at Northwood called.

    "He knew I wasn't doing anything and said, 'You want to come play some football?' " Roper said.

    Still, the NFL wasn't even a pipe dream.

    "Really, it wasn't one of my goals," Roper said. "I was having fun playing, but I was mainly focused on trying to get a good degree and a job."

    Roper's degree is in business management marketing. If he doesn't make the team, the practice squad could be an option. NFL practice squads have been increased from five to eight players.

    Roper can hardly wait for the preseason opener Saturday in Detroit. He was born in that city, and Ford Field is only two hours from Northwood.

    In the meantime, he already has made a good first impression -- and those tend to last.

    "The whole point for a rookie in camp is opening the coaches' eyes, so they remember your name, so you won't be cut," Greene said. "Once you make the team, your foot's in the door."

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  • RamDez
    Rams' small linebacker hopes to make it big
    by RamDez
    Rams' small linebacker hopes to make it big
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Friday, Jun. 10 2005

    Overdue for something positive to happen in his football career, Louis Ayeni
    isn't dismissing his chances of making the Rams' roster.

    "I've seen it all, done it all and been through it all," Ayeni said, laughing.
    "So nothing surprises me anymore."

    Signed June 2 as a free agent, Ayeni is listed at 5 feet 11, 213 pounds, No. 59
    and a linebacker. A 213-pound NFL linebacker?

    "I just think they want me to make plays," Ayeni said. "I don't really see it
    as me being a linebacker or a safety. They just want to get me out there
    hitting people and helping the team out the best that I can."

    Linebacker is yet another new spot for Ayeni (pronounced eye-YEH-nee), who
    started out in 1999 as a running back at Northwestern but later was moved to
    wide receiver and then safety. But Ayeni, 24, has had to endure far more than a
    succession of position changes.

    The first jolt came in his junior year at Woodbury (Minn.) High School, when
    one of his teammates died suddenly. "That was really rough on me," said Ayeni,
    who nonethless came back the next season and piled up more than 2,000 rushing
    yards.

    He turned down offers from Nebraska of the Big 12 Conference, and Iowa,
    Michigan, and Wisconsin of the Big Ten to go to Northwestern. He liked the
    academics there, plus the opportunity to play right away.

    "I had a lot of high expectations in college," Ayeni said. "I backed up a great
    running back, (current Arizona Cardinal) Damien Anderson, as a freshman. Then
    after that, it started going downhill."

    Shortly after the season, Wildcats coach Gary Barnett left for Colorado. Ayeni
    and roommate Chris Brown - now a running back with the Tennessee Titans -
    discussed following Barnett, but decided to stay and play for new Northwestern
    coach Randy Walker.

    Before the 2000 season began, Brown changed his mind and transferred to
    Colorado. Ayeni stayed at Northwestern, and Walker asked him to switch to
    wideout. The idea was to get him and Anderson in the lineup together.

    But that notion was scuttled when a succession of injuries began. A stress
    fracture in his hip kept Ayeni sidelined for the first half of the year, and
    his season ended with a far more serious injury. While returning a punt at the
    Alamo Bowl, he broke a bone in his lower leg and shredded three tendons in his
    ankle.

    During the year that Ayeni spent recovering - he missed the entire 2001 season
    - another teammate and close friend died unexpectedly. Safety Rashidi Wheeler
    collapsed at a summer...
    -06-11-2005, 04:51 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, SI.com

    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 NFLDraftCountdown.com lists him 61st among receiver prospects. TFY Draft analyst (and SI.com 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
  • MauiRam
    As cuts loom, long shots keep plugging away ..
    by MauiRam
    BY JIM THOMAS Tuesday, August 31, 2010 12:10 am


    Talk about the road less traveled. Ernest Reid was born in American Samoa, grew up in Hawaii and went to college in Utah and North Dakota. Now he's trying to land a job in St. Louis as a defensive tackle for the Rams.

    "It's coming to the wire," Reid said. "Last cut, so I'm just trying to do the most I can."

    Reid was playing football at Utah State when his girlfriend became pregnant. Rather than run away from the responsibility of parenthood, he married his girlfriend, quit school and went back to Hawaii to get a job and provide for his family.

    "I was working as a youth counselor, and in security, just bouncing around jobs," Reid said. "Finally, I decided I just wanted to finish my football and see where it takes me."

    Initially, it took him to the University of Mary, an NCAA Division II school in Bismarck, N.D. That's where he finished his final year of eligibility. He wasn't drafted in April but attended the Rams' rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.

    The Rams liked him enough to sign him to their 80-man roster, but he was cut after the full-squad minicamp in mid-June. He went home to Hawaai, worked out, worked part time as a bouncer and waited for the phone to ring.

    When it rang, he was sleeping.

    "Just on that last ring, I woke up, and I was too late to answer," Reid said.

    But he noticed the area code on caller ID 314 and called right back, hoping it was the Rams. It was. When Chris Hovan was released in early August, Reid joined the Rams a week into training camp.

    He has had some moments on the practice field, and in the second preseason game against Cleveland, got into the backfield a couple of times. A fire hydrant of a defensive tackle at 6-2, 320, Reid has four tackles this preseason.

    His daughter Cha'lei turned 3 Saturday. His son Siale turns 1 in November. They're back in Hawaii with his wife. "I miss my family," Reid said. "But it's a better opportunity here."

    Reid is among 11 undrafted rookies on the current Rams roster. They're all trying to beat the odds when the final roster cuts are made Saturday. A look at three other long shots.

    RB Keith Toston

    "I've been playing football my whole life," Toston said, "but the biggest difference is you can really tell it's a business (in the NFL). One day you can be here, the next you can be gone. It's a little scary, but I can't worry about it."

    An All-Big 12 performer last season at Oklahoma State, Toston is a between-the-tackles style runner. He's the Rams' leading rusher so far this preseason, but with a modest total of 80 yards on 29 carries. That's only 2.8 yards a carry. But Toston looked more relaxed and more decisive last Thursday...
    -08-31-2010, 12:34 PM
  • DJRamFan
    A.J. Kincade Feature Story
    by DJRamFan
    Senior Profile

    Sept. 23, 2005

    With the Tigers leading 17-14 in overtime against Iowa State in the final week of the 2004 season, Mizzou cornerback AJ Kincade made the biggest play of his life. The Cyclones had the ball, third and goal inside the Tigers' five yard line. When the defense broke is huddle, Kincade was standing on the sideline as the Tiger coaches were waiting to see what formation Iowa State came in. Finally with the play starting in a few seconds the coaches yelled for Kincade and fellow cornerback Marcus King to get on the field.

    "We got on the field really late," Kincade said. "When I finally got out on the field, I didn't know what to do, I looked at King and held my arms out, but he didn't know either so we decided to go into man coverage. When the play started the receiver started out kind of lackadaisically, but I stayed with him and then the ball was there and I jumped up and grabbed it."

    Before he was making game-winning interceptions at Mizzou, Kincade played running back on junior teams near his home in St. Louis.

    "I started playing football when I was seven years old and I didn't like it originally," Kincade said. "The first year I played I didn't enjoy, but I stuck with it and it's been an ongoing process since then."

    However, when Kincade was growing up, he did play with several other scholar athletes on his own little league football team including former Tiger running back Damien Nash.

    "We ran a wishbone offense that had me along with Damien Nash," Kincade said. "We had a dominant squad that year."

    In high school, Kincade played on both sides of the ball starring at running back and cornerback where he earned All-State honors. His senior year, he rushed for 1,443 yards and 24 touchdowns on offense and had six career interceptions as a cornerback. He also earned All-State honors as a cornerback.





    "I liked running back better," Kincade said. "I grew up playing running back, and then I didn't start until my senior year. However, the biggest schools were recruiting me to be a corner so I decided to stick with that."

    Throughout his childhood, Kincade always played in multiple sports as he played baseball for one year and AAU basketball through junior high. In high school, Kincade joined the track team largely to keep in shape for football, but also had a very successful track career.

    "My mom tried to get me to run track ever since I was a little boy because I was always pretty fast, but I was never really interested in it," Kincade said. "The first time I ran track was my freshman year, and I did it to stay in shape. The next summer I ran AAU track and I got second in nationals in the 4x100-meter relay." Kincade went...
    -09-23-2005, 03:13 PM
  • DJRamFan
    Vols counting on healthy linebacker Simon in final season
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 18, 2005
    CBS SportsLine.com wire reports




    KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer ranks Kevin Simon as one of the most dominant players to ever suit up for the Volunteers -- when the linebacker has been healthy.

    Advertisement


    And that's the problem.

    Simon's been injured so much during his college career, he hasn't had much chance to prove his coach right.

    The senior has made it through only one full season at Tennessee because of three major injuries since high school, when he was one of the top recruits in the country.

    "It's a major compliment," Simon said about Fulmer's statement. "I just hope I don't make him look bad. When a coach says something like that about you, you want to prove him right."

    Simon wants to make the most of his final season this fall as the starting middle linebacker on a team considered to be the favorite for the Southeastern Conference championship.

    Simon came to Knoxville from De La Salle High School, a private, all-boys school in suburban San Francisco, which had a 151-game winning streak end last year. Some of Simon's teammates went to other big-time programs like Michigan, Notre Dame and Miami.

    Simon's stellar high school career ended in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl with a severe knee injury, and he was redshirted in his first year at Tennessee. In 2002, he earned a starting spot, but broke his ankle in the fourth game.

    After another surgery and recovery, Simon led Tennessee in tackles with 115 in 2003 as a sophomore, his only complete season.

    Believing he was finally on track to make his mark as a Vol, Simon tore his ACL in the second game last season and sat out the rest of the year.

    Simon looks healthy again with his speed, instincts and enormous biceps.

    "I haven't felt this good since I've been at Tennessee," he said after practice this week.

    Fulmer said Simon will be a key part of the team's success.


    "He's as dominating a football player as we've had when he's playing at his best," Fulmer said.

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    This summer, Simon watched at least an hour of film a day from old Tennessee games, other college teams and NFL squads such as Tampa Bay, Miami, Baltimore and Denver to analyze other middle linebackers.

    One of those players was Al Wilson, a favorite of Tennessee fans for his emotional leadership during the 1998 national championship run. Simon is cautious about comparing himself to Wilson.

    "There's some similarities, but I've got some special things to do before I can say that I'm at that level. I'm definitely working hard to get there," Simon said.

    ...
    -08-18-2005, 08:50 PM
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