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Rams' Howard beats long odds to earn opening-day roster slot

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  • Rams' Howard beats long odds to earn opening-day roster slot

    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
    chime of his telephone, bells kept ringing in his room last Sunday at the
    Sheraton Four Points hotel in Earth City.

    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
    her. "I called her back at 3."

    At that hour the roster had to be set at 53 players. And because Howard hadn't
    heard from the folks down the road at Rams Park, he knew that he'd beaten long
    odds and made the team. Howard, a 6-foot-4, 278-pound defensive tackle, is the
    only undrafted rookie signed by the Rams in the offseason still remaining on
    the active roster.

    "All through minicamps and training camp, it's obviously a worry and a stress
    on your mind pretty much all the time," said Howard, who is from Kent, Wash.
    "Now that it's finally here ... it's pretty incredible. It's something you've
    worked for and dreamed about your whole life."

    Howard, 23, didn't show up with glitzy credentials. He never was an All-Big Sky
    Conference selection while at Idaho. As a senior, he finished third on the team
    in tackles. He earned more repute as a high school rugby player, where he twice
    made the under-19 All-America team.

    In training camp at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., Howard's reps
    increased substantially after Jimmy Kennedy, the Rams' first-round draft pick a
    year ago, suffered a broken foot Aug. 5. Kennedy had surgery five days later
    and isn't expected back until late November.

    "That's obviously what you need, to get a shot and be able to make plays,"
    Howard said. "If you're not in, you can't make plays."

    Ultimately, Howard beat out eight-year NFL veteran Bernard Holsey to win his
    roster spot.

    Howard said defensive line coach Bill Kollar "told me when I first got here,
    'You have a shot to make this team.' But they have different people they bring
    in at different times ... when you're here, you've got to perform."

    Until he survived the last cut, Howard never had a concrete feeling about his

    "For some reason, I'd kind of go back and forth a lot," he said. "Sometimes I'd
    feel confident, and other days I'd just feel like I could be gone tomorrow."

    The Rams were impressed enough to sign Howard to a three-year deal worth
    $927,500, which should solidify his spot. Still, with all the roster shuffling
    that took place this past week at Rams Park, Howard said he was assuming

    "You have a little bit of relief, but the thought's still in your mind that
    you've got to produce to stay here," he said. "You see it all the time, people
    leaving and getting cut at different times. You've just got to keep

    Still, he's relishing Sunday's opener vs. Arizona at the Edward Jones Dome.

    "It'll be real neat to be suited up for a regular-season game in the NFL,"
    Howard said. "Obviously my hope is to get on the field and make plays; that's
    why you're here."

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

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  • RamWraith
    Howard feels bond with undrafted rookies
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Aug. 10 2005

    That second-year defensive tackle Brian Howard acknowledges a particular
    affinity for Rams rookies Zach Bray, Jeremy Calahan, Jeremy Carter, Clifford
    Dukes, Vontrell Jamison, Dominique Thompson and Duvol Thompson should come as
    no surprise.

    The seven are undrafted free agents battling the odds during training camp in a
    long-shot attempt to win a spot on the 53-man roster. Howard is acutely
    familiar with their situation. "A year ago," he pointed out, "I was that guy."

    Howard showed up at Rams Park in April 2004 toting a slim resume. Not only had
    he never been selected to the All-Big Sky Conference team, he'd never even led
    his team in tackles in any of his four seasons at the University of Idaho.

    But his reps increased when fellow tackle Jimmy Kennedy broke his foot early in
    camp, and Howard impressed the coaches with his effort and passion. When the
    final roster was announced Sept. 5, Howard's name was on it.

    He wound up playing in 15 regular-season games - including one start - and both
    playoff contests, collecting a total of 25 tackles. He celebrated his season by
    having large, colorful tattoos applied to both upper arms, increasing his
    personal collection to five. "Look for some more" in the future, warned Howard,
    who arrived at camp this year a proven veteran instead of an obscure rookie.

    "It's a different feeling, but you're still never comfortable. There are no
    guarantees" in the NFL, said Howard, a 6-foot-4, 278-pound native of Seattle.
    "It's definitely a lot less stress coming into camp, but I'm still as hungry as
    I was last year - even more so."

    But not so preoccupied with his own duties that he can't find time to counsel
    the seven youngsters with whom he shares a bond of sorts.

    "I make sure to give them support, talk to them a lot," said Howard, 23.
    "Because I remember a year ago, it was nice for me to get tips from different
    guys on the team. So, as much as I can do, I'm going to try to help them out,

    Friday's game will be televised

    They needed a 24-hour extension of the deadline, but Rams officials said
    Wednesday that enough tickets had been sold so that Friday night's preseason
    game against the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome can be televised
    locally. It will be shown on KTVI (Channel 2) at 7 p.m.

    Normally, a sellout must be achieved 72 hours before kickoff for the blackout
    to be lifted.

    Anderson lands in Carolina

    It didn't take cornerback Dwight Anderson long to find work. Anderson, a...
    -08-11-2005, 05:29 AM
  • RamWraith
    Brake, Howard Overcome Odds
    by RamWraith
    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...
    -09-06-2004, 06:24 PM
  • MauiRam
    Tim Sandige ...
    by MauiRam
    By Bill Coats

    Had defensive tackle Tim Sandidge spent much more time in Germany, he might be seeking a roster spot with the Rams at a different position.

    "I really missed the (American) food," Sandidge said. "They have what's called schnitzel. It's pretty good, but ... you don't want to have it all the time. I lost about 10 or 15 pounds over there."

    Though he might not have been well fed, Sandidge considers his time in NFL Europe well spent. "We had a good team, and our D-line coach was pretty good," he said. "So I feel like being over there really helped me. I played a lot, got a lot of experience, and I feel like I got better."

    Sandidge was one of four Rams players allocated to NFL Europe for the 10-game season. Sandidge and tackle Jeremy Parquet played for the Hamburg Sea Devils, cornerback Josh Lay for the Berlin Thunder, and running back John David Washington for the Rhein Fire.

    Hamburg and the Frankfurt Galaxy will meet Saturday in the World Bowl, which wraps up the NFL Europe season. Sandidge will be watching from afar, though; a sprained knee ended his season early.

    "No tear, so that's the good part," he said. "I played in about six or seven games. I felt like I went out there and did what I needed to do. I think I opened up a lot of eyes."

    The folks at Rams Park are impressed enough with Sandidge (6 feet 1, 300 pounds) to consider him among the contenders for a backup spot on the defensive line. The recent trade of tackle Jimmy Kennedy to Denver provided enhanced hope for Sandidge, as well as recent draftees Clifton Ryan and Keith Jackson.

    "I just think it's an opportunity for them ... to get in there and make a name for themselves," coach Scott Linehan. The competition will begin in earnest July 27, when training camp opens at Rams Park.

    "I feel real good about my chances," Sandidge said. "I feel like last year I was just getting into the league, trying to find my way through. Going to Europe, I think I've matured as a player, and I think I've gotten better as a player."

    Sandidge was a "three-technique" tackle at Virginia Tech, but the Rams also worked him at nose tackle. "I liked that," he said. "I think I'm versatile enough to play either."
    An undrafted rookie, Sandidge spent most of last season on the Rams' practice squad. Kansas City signed him to its active roster Dec. 5, but he didn't play in any games and re-signed with the Rams after the season.

    A native of Amherst, Va., Sandidge never had been outside of the United States before heading for Hamburg in the spring.

    "It was a good experience," said Sandidge, 24. "I had a great time; I...
    -06-22-2007, 01:37 AM
  • RamDez
    Veteran steps in for his injured teammate
    by RamDez
    Veteran steps in for his injured teammate
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MACOMB, Ill. - Don't look for Bernard Holsey in an instructional fitness video any time soon. The veteran defensive tackle was doing a plyometrics workout during the offseason when he lost his equilibrium.

    "It was one of those freak accidents," Holsey said. "I was doing box jumps and kind of lost my balance. I fell down and my leg kind of stayed up on the box."

    He suffered a torn quadriceps tendon in his left leg and underwent surgery in February. Which is hardly the best way to begin the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

    Because of the surgery, Holsey wasn't expecting to hear from NFL teams until the start of training camp. Much to his surprise, the Rams signed him to a one-year, $660,000 contract on June 18.

    "I really wasn't expecting that," Holsey said. "The Rams came out of the blue on that one. I really appreciate their trust and faith in me that everything's going to work out for the best."

    For the most part, Holsey had been a spectator during the first nine days of camp as he continued rehabilitation work on his leg. Now, it's time for Holsey to reward the Rams for that "trust and faith."

    Thursday afternoon, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy was lost for 10 to 12 weeks with a fractured foot. On Friday afternoon, Holsey took part in his first full-scale practice with the Rams.

    Kennedy wasn't going to start this season; Ryan Pickett and Damione Lewis will handle those chores. But Kennedy had shown enough to merit a spot in defensive line coach Bill Kollar's rotation.

    "Obviously, he still had a ways to go," Kollar said. "But he was getting better and working pretty hard."

    With Kennedy shelved for at least half the season, Holsey becomes the No. 1 candidate for the No. 3 spot at defensive tackle.

    "To me, starting is not that important," Holsey said. "I'm here to play. And the way Coach Kollar rotates his guys, I'm going to get to play a good amount."

    Given Lewis' injury history, Holsey could play even more than he thinks. An eight-year veteran from Duke, Holsey has played for the New York Giants, Indianapolis, New England and Washington. He has started only 33 of 104 games over that span, but started all 16 games last season for the Redskins.

    "He's a stout-looking guy and stuff," Kollar said. "I know he's a tough guy, which we like."

    Other possibilities for tackle help off the bench include defensive captain Tyoka Jackson and youngsters Brian Howard, Justin Montgomery and Kevin Aldridge.

    "Over the last couple years, Ty has really done a good job at left end for us, and we really like him out there,"
    -08-07-2004, 01:54 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