No announcement yet.

Longshots Embrace Land Of Opportunity

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Longshots Embrace Land Of Opportunity

    Longshots Embrace Land of Opportunity
    Monday, September 7, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    In giving his early assessment of his Rams roster way back in the spring, coach Steve Spagnuolo repeatedly referred to the practice fields at the Russell Training Center as the “Land of Opportunity.”

    With little to no preconceived notions about any of the players on the roster, Spagnuolo and his staff came to those organized team activities and minicamp practices with an open mind and that carried on into training camp and the preseason.

    “Every position is an ongoing competition,” Spagnuolo said. “I don’t mean to overstate what’s going on but it really is.”

    When the Rams announced the results of the competition from training camp and the preseason by declaring their 53-man roster on Saturday night, there were four Rams from various backgrounds who seized their opportunity.

    Perhaps more than the rest of their more experienced teammates, defensive end C.J. Ah You, guard Roger Allen III, tackle Eric Young and safety David Roach wasted no chance to impress the coaching staff.

    And for their efforts, that quartet landed spots on the team’s final roster regardless of the odds they faced in getting there.

    For each player, the path was different but it ultimately led to the same spot.


    Entering this year’s training camp; it’s safe to say that Ah You had placed a certain amount of expectation on himself.

    After spending the past year and a half on the Rams practice squad, Ah You found himself hoping for a shot to finally land on the active roster.

    Of course, that seemed a tall order considering that the Rams seemed to have a solid quartet at defensive end already in place in Leonard Little, James Hall, Chris Long and Victor Adeyanju.

    “I knew coming in I had my work cut out for me so all I could do is work on my game and do everything I can and hustle and work hard and hopefully the coaches like what they see and keep me around,” Ah You said.

    Ah You’s expectations perked up a little bit after the team hired Spagnuolo, though. From watching Spagnuolo’s defenses in New York the past two years, Ah You knew that the new head coach had a penchant for moving defensive linemen around and sending them out on the field in waves.

    That knowledge created hope that maybe the opportunity to land on the roster would be greater than it had previously been.

    “When he first got hired I saw the opportunity to maybe come inside and maybe (go) outside,” Ah You said. “I got a lot of work on that in training camp and now I’m here so it worked out.”

    Ah You performed well on the practice field but it was when the lights came on in the preseason contests that it started to click. Ah You posted consecutive big games against Cincinnati and Kansas City to close the preseason with a flourish.

    When the final cut down came around, Ah You relaxed and spent the day with his visiting family before Rams general manager Billy Devaney personally called him to break the news that he had finally met his goal.

    “I really appreciated that,” Ah You said. “I thanked him for the opportunity and sticking by me. I am just excited for this year.”


    For Roach, the journey to the active roster isn’t a first time deal. He originally signed with New Orleans before last season as an undrafted free agent but was released and signed to the Rams practice squad on Oct. 21.

    Roach was released and brought back again before the Rams eventually gave him the call up to the active roster from the practice squad on Dec. 18.

    Although he was on the 53, Roach was inactive the final two games. Still, it was clear the Rams had high hopes for him.

    In this year’s camp, Roach made a positive impression on special teams and an injury to Eric Bassey created an expanded role for him in the preseason games.

    “Obviously, (he) performed well enough and caught our eye,” Spagnuolo said.

    Now, Roach appears poised to get another opportunity to more than just dress on game days.


    There was a time not long ago when Young was considered a strong offensive line prospect. Coming out of the University of Tennessee, Young went to the Browns as an undrafted free agent.
    Young had suffered a quadriceps injury in the ninth game of his senior season for the Volunteers that essentially ruined his chances of being drafted.

    In Cleveland, Young was signed with the future in mind and he was allowed to work out, rehab and attend meetings. When the Browns changed coaching staffs early in the offseason, Young was cut loose.

    After arriving in St. Louis, Young took advantage of his chance and, more important, his newly regained health.

    “I feel like I kind of started off a little slow, considering I had been out of football for 22 months with an injury but once I got to game speed I feel like I played pretty well,” Young said.

    Young played well enough to land the gig as the team’s fourth tackle though he is also well aware that rosters are constantly being tweaked even after the final cuts.

    “You still have to approach every day, go out there and work as hard as you can and keep fighting,” Young said. “That’s my mindset.”


    In virtually every training camp, at least one undrafted rookie will sign with a team and do enough in the preseason to steal a roster spot. In the Rams’ case, this year’s feel good story comes from right here in the Show Me State.

    Allen, a native of Raytown, Mo. and Missouri Western State alumni, came to the Rams as a strong, talented if not raw prospect with plenty of upside.

    During training camp, Allen showed a lot of that potential but spent most of his time working with the third team. As camp wore on, Allen continued to improve and the week before last week’s preseason finale against Kansas City, Allen was informed that he would be working with the second string.

    That vote of confidence buoyed Allen and let him know he could fit in on this level.

    “That let me know they liked me,” Allen said. “They wanted to see big things out of me. I know they brought me here with big expectations and I plan on living up to them and the fact that I played (so much) against Kansas City just amped it up that much more.”

    Like most of his rookie brethren, Allen spent Saturday sweating out the results, watching television and playing video games. His parents were in town and helped him get through it.

    “They’d help me pack up my stuff if things went wrong,” Allen said, jokingly.

    Sure enough the call never came and Allen was finally informed that he had made the team when his agent called him with the good news.

    “He called me and said congratulations,” Allen said. “I said ‘Congratulations about what?’ he said he talked to them and you made it. I was like ‘Are you sure? Oh, thank God.’”

    Although the stories of Allen, Roach, Young and Ah You all have their own twists and turns to them, there’s no doubting the amount of hard work, blood, sweat and tears each of them has poured in to getting to this point.

    Reality says things can change at the drop of a hat in the NFL. But for now, Spagnuolo wants to make sure none of his players - whether they be Pro Bowlers or roster long shots made good – take what they’ve been given lightly.

    “They deserve to be here,” Spagnuolo said. “I told the guys this morning…I congratulated everybody first of all, for being on an NFL football team. It is special – not everybody can do that and then I told them that they should feel proud of it and never take it for granted. Coaches, players, should never take this for granted. It can be taken away like that and hopefully the message got through.”

  • #2
    Re: Longshots Embrace Land Of Opportunity

    Ah You caught my eye a lot during preseason. He's a gamer with a high motor and I'll bet he's going to make some solid contributions this year.


    • #3
      Re: Longshots Embrace Land Of Opportunity

      No doubt all of these guys were long shots to make the Rams, but what I don't understand is why no mention of Quincy Butler? I mean who is this guy and isn't he as much of a long shot as the others?

      I know I haven't ever heard of him before this year.

      WHAT SAY YE?


      Related Topics


      • eldfan
        St. Louis Rams Team Report
        by eldfan
        New Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo promised his team the first few days of training camp would be "a bear," and while the weather wasn't too hot and the two-a-days had just one practice each day in full pads, the intensity was high as well as the hitting.
        During the first two morning practices, the ones in full pads, there were about 30 plays with live tackling.

        After the first day, Spagnuolo said, "We need to find out quickly - you've got to remember again it's a whole new staff and a lot of unknowns - really the only way to find out is to put them in those kind of situations. As we go along here every day we will decide how many of those periods will be live. It was really two periods and about 30 plays of live."

        When questioned further by the media, Spagnuolo winked and said, "Do you think it was tough? I didn't think it was that tough. It was physical."

        Of course, Spagnuolo did admit to something else: "I'm doing this every time. I've got my hands behind my back (crossing fingers)."

        Said linebacker Will Witherspoon, "Usually you don't go live that first day of pads but it's good. You really want to get the feel of hitting again, striking guys again. That was kind of the key point of it and getting the feel of hitting through a guy. It was great. I think it was good for everybody to come out here and just get moving and get in the momentum of the game."

        Added cornerback Ron Bartell, "One thing I have learned over the years is that it's a lot easier to be hard on guys and then kind of back off than it is to be light and try to get hard on guys again. I think he knows what he's doing. He knows when to let up. Right now, it's day two so I think we'll be fine."

        The hitting even included running back Steven Jackson.

        "He's got to get hit, everybody else has got to get hit," linebacker Chris Draft said. "We have got to get ready too. Right now, that's what we have. We have our chance to get out here, run to the ball and be able to tackle the ball. It doesn't matter who has it."

        Players have been running to the ball, gang tackling, and picking up even incomplete passes to run with it to get in the mindset of creating turnovers and making plays. While the defense has been maligned in recent seasons, Spagnuolo believes there's more there than is realized.

        "I think we've got guys with that kind of attitude," he said. "I do believe that. We've got to keep healthy. (But) we've got to do the things out here to kind of get ready for the competition that we're going to face going forward."

        Concluded Bartell, "You better have some attitude. I don't think we've carried the attitude the past couple years that we should've had, and we paid for it on the field. So (the coaches) are coming in, they're instilling...
        -08-03-2009, 08:55 AM
      • eldfan
        Rams Team Report
        by eldfan
        As the regular season begins, and with the division-rival Seattle Seahawks on the horizon, coach Steve Spagnuolo knows the team's 3-1 preseason record doesn't count for much.
        "I'm perfectly aware that all of this is a honeymoon period," he said. "The real challenge is upcoming.

        "It's nice to be 3-1 after the preseason, but like I told the players, the score counted when we played the games. It doesn't matter now. We're moving on. We came in and did what we thought as a group were the right things to do. But the real test is the regular season, winning and losing."

        Even though Spagnuolo realizes building this team's roster in his image is a work in progress, he does like the team's mindset so far.

        He said, "I think we've got a bunch of hungry guys. I think it's good to be hungry. It's a hungry football team that wants to be a team. We've talked a lot about it and I think the guys have embraced it. At least their actions and the attitudes and what comes out verbally says that to me. So if we can rally around that, that would be good."

        Asked what he expects from his team, Spagnuolo said, "In a nutshell, I want a focused, disciplined, tough football team. We have certain measurements that we have after games that measure that focus, discipline and toughness. I blurt them out after every game and let them know if we met them. I think the team is starting to embrace that, too. We talk about it all the time."

        "If you're a physically tough team, you're able to run the ball and stop the run."

        Said guard Richie Incognito, "That's the identity we're trying to create. Physical up front, and get the running game going ... The coaches are calling it up, dialing it up and they're keeping it coming. We're pumped up, we're excited."

        Former Rams coach Dick Vermeil would often say a coach "has to be believed to be heard." Spagnuolo sees a team that is listening and accepting leadership.

        "That means a great deal," he said. "I thanked them the other night (before the final preseason game). The night before the game for what they did. Back in the offseason program, right through training camp, it was a new training camp. It was a different hotel and we're here. New staff, new this or that, and they didn't skip a beat. They really bought into it."

        How much will the team improve from a two-win season? While Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney know there is a lot of work to do, they aren't willing to accept just minimal improvement.

        "I don't think anybody here is saying, 'Boy, if we just double our win total, we'll be happy about that,'" Devaney said. "If we win four games, then we still stink.

        "We're thinking we have a pretty good team. How fast it meshes and comes together, we're...
        -09-11-2009, 06:59 AM
      • 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, 11:34 AM
      • MauiRam
        Rams notes: Hooey put time on practice squad to good use ..
        by MauiRam
        By Joe Lyons

        Sean Hooey’s first season in professional football was over almost as soon as it started.
        An undrafted rookie free agent tackle from the University of Cincinnati, Hooey competed in just 27 plays of the Rams’ 27-19 preseason loss to the Browns in Cleveland last year before being injured.

        The foot injury forced Hooey to sit out the rest of training camp and the final three preseason contests.

        He was waived when the team cut its roster to 53.

        “I got some good feedback from the coaches and my agent was told that they liked me and wanted to bring me back for the practice squad,’’ the 24-year-old said following practice at Rams Park early this week. “But I was pretty nervous, not knowing what was going to happen. This is a business and I was cut and put on waivers, just like everybody else.

        “Having my agent say they would call me back and actually getting the call were two extremely different things.’’

        But Hooey got the call and ended up spending the 2013 campaign on the practice squad. Since then, he has been making steady progress.

        “My ascent as a football player, it began last fall on the practice squad and working in the weight room with Rock,’’ Hooey said, referring to Rams strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson. “I came in here at 305 pounds and now I’m at 318. I’m stronger and in better shape, and my technique has improved. I’m playing the best football I’ve played in my life.

        “Getting a chance on the practice squad was a motivator for me, an opportunity to work my way up. If anything, when I came back, I was determined to work even harder. I just followed coach Rock’s plan. I changed my diet and just put everything I had into it. This is my job, my livelihood.’’

        Early on, Rams offensive line coach Paul Boudreau saw potential in Hooey. He also saw something that cannot be taught: Hooey stands 6 feet, 9 inches tall.

        In a little over a year, Hooey has transformed his body in the weight room and sharpened his technique on the practice field.

        “Going up against Chris Long and Rob Quinn every day does nothing but make you better,’’ he said.

        Hooey was among the busiest players in last weekend’s 26-24 loss to the visiting New Orleans Saints to open the preseason, taking part in 56 offensive snaps and two more on special teams.

        “For my first full game in a while, I felt I played pretty well,’’ he said. “I’m pretty hard on myself, never wanting to be completely satisfied because there’s always something you can improve on. There are definitely one or two plays in my mind that stick out, so I’m going into this week trying to improve on those areas.’’

        Hooey, who said he’s comfortable at either tackle spot, was among a handful of players invited to join the rookies a few days before the start of training camp. During those...
        -08-14-2014, 01:19 AM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Rams Ready For Preseason Opener
        by r8rh8rmike
        Rams Ready for Preseason Opener
        Thursday, August 13, 2009

        By Nick Wagoner
        Senior Writer

        When the Rams step on the field against the Jets on Friday night for the first game time under coach Steve Spagnuolo, the end result won’t be the most important thing.

        After all, it’s the first preseason game and the first opportunity for Spagnuolo to see how his team fares against someone wearing a different jersey. Like any preseason game, the plays for the starters will be limited and the playbook will be rather vanilla.

        What Spagnuolo wants to see, more so than more points on the Rams’ side than the Jets, is how his team competes when the lights come on.

        “In a lot of ways it’s a continuation of training camp in my opinion because you are still working,” Spagnuolo said. “But I will say this, it doesn’t matter whether you are playing pickup basketball in the backyard or playing your brother in cards, it’s competition. Everybody wants to win so we will approach this thing like a competition. We want to compete, compete at the highest level and let it play itself out. It’s great we are going to get some situational work. We have been doing a lot of that in practice. But there’s nothing like playing in the game.”

        To this point, the Rams have gone through an entire offseason under their new direction. That includes organized team activities, minicamps and conditioning programs. In this year’s training camp, this game signals the first true benchmark and the chance for the 80 players on the roster to get a real evaluation from the coaching staff.

        On Thursday, the team moved out of its training camp hotel and though it will still be in camp mode as far as practice upon return from New York, the business of looking toward the regular season isn’t far off.

        The Rams are now 24 practices and one full squad scrimmage into this year’s training camp and the light at the end of the tunnel is growing closer.

        That said there’s plenty left to accomplish between now and the Sept. 13 opener at Seattle.

        “I’m really excited to see what this ’09 team has,” running back Steven Jackson said. “I think over the last several months, from OTAs until now, we’ve really worked on changing the identity of this team. And I think Friday will be a showing of where we’re at so far in this season, this early season.”

        The first preseason game is generally viewed as a way to ease players back into the grind and intensity of a real, live football game. More often than not, teams choose to use their top players for a limited time and wait until the second and third preseason games before they give those groups an extended period of time.

        For the Rams, it will be no different. Spagnuolo said Wednesday he expects to use his starting unit for about the first quarter, give or take a few plays and...
        -08-14-2009, 02:11 PM