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  • Stemke's Dream Comes True

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Most young football players dream about getting a chance to play in the NFL. An opportunity to put on any NFL uniform is good enough to make any kid drool. But, what if you had the chance to play in your hometown on Monday Night Football after a few years of bouncing around?

    Put more simply, what if you were new Rams punter Kevin Stemke? He lived out his childhood dream of playing in the NFL after signing with St. Louis on Friday. Stemke replaced one of the league’s most well known punters in Sean Landeta, who was released Friday.

    He traveled with the Rams to his hometown of Green Bay, Wis., to play in front of his friends and family against the team he grew up rooting for, on the field (Lambeau Field) he fantasized about playing on and all of it happened on Monday Night Football.

    Stemke’s debut was a solid one. He had just two punts, but dropped both inside the 20, with a long of 39 yards.

    “That’s just about my dream come true,” Stemke said. “This is about as good as the opportunities get. I’ve just got to go out and perform and convince them they made the right decision.”

    Perhaps the most amazing part of all of it is the distance Stemke had to travel for the opportunity.

    The Rams contacted him early lat week, asking him to come in for a tryout. It was getting him to St. Louis that was the hard part. Stemke has been living in Mulhouse, France with his wife Elizabeth, who is a professional volleyball player there.

    When the Rams called, Stemke was living with his wife and working out in case he got an opportunity with an NFL team. Stemke played in two games with Oakland in 2002, averaging 42.4 yards per punt. That came after a training camp stint with the hometown Packers in 2001 and time with the Rams in 2002 after an impressive career at the University of Wisconsin.

    There he earned the first Ray Guy Award as the NCAA’s best punter. He spent this preseason with Washington. He punted against the Rams in their preseason game on Aug. 27. He had one punt in that game, a booming 58-yard kick that landed inside the Rams 20. That wasn’t enough, though, and Stemke was cut.

    He was then left with a decision to make.

    “I stuck around for a while and had a few workouts, but I didn’t get a call for a couple of weeks,” Stemke said. “I said, ‘I’m going to join my wife in France and live off her for awhile.”

    Stemke arrived in St. Louis on Thursday after struggling to find a flight out of the tiny city in northwest France. When he finally located one, he hopped on the plane, had a layover in London and was in the Gateway City in time for Turkey Day.

    Rams coach Mike Martz said the team has had its eye on Stemke for awhile, from the time Stemke spent with St. Louis and his performance against the Rams in the preseason.

    “He most definitely did (make an impression),” Martz said. “That’s why we have kept track of his whereabouts for some time. We felt like he would always be the guy if we felt the need.”

    Stemke’s love of kicking was grown at an early age and can be directly attributed to his father Horst. Horst Stemke was a member of the 1968 and 1872 U.S. Olympic soccer teams. He got the chance to watch his son’s first NFL game.

    Unfortunately for Kevin Stemke, his wife was one of the few immediate family members that didn’t get to see his first game, even on television. Stemke said it was hard for him to keep up with the NFL when he was overseas and his wife, even if she were to find an American bar would have had to convince it to stay open until about 3 a.m.

    With the amount of uncertainty about job security in the NFL, Stemke has already learned an important lesson about the way the business works. Such is the life of a punter.

    “In my experience it is (the way punters live),” Stemke said. “I have bounced around so much that I’ve learned not to unpack my bags.”

    For the first time in his young career, Stemke can fill his drawers with clothes. He is a starting punter in the NFL and the timing and scenario couldn’t have been any better.

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Stemke given the boot by St. Louis
    by RamWraith
    Green Bay's Kevin Stemke left 'dumbfounded' by the Rams' decision to cut him this week

    By Todd McMahon
    Another NFL off-season. Unfortunately for Kevin Stemke, yet another period of downtime consumed by an uncertain future.

    Stemke, a Green Bay native and former standout at Preble High School and the University of Wisconsin, is back on the all-too-familiar market seeking employment as a professional punter.

    The St. Louis Rams cut Stemke this week, which came as a "huge shock" to the 26-year-old and those close to him, agent Chris Murray said Tuesday night.

    "We're as dumbfounded as anybody," Murray said.

    According to Murray, Stemke learned of his impending release Friday while on the golf course with former Wisconsin kicker Vitaly Pisetsky, who was married the next day. Stemke took a call on his cell phone from first-year special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, who informed Stemke that the team had decided to part ways with their incumbent left-footed punter.

    Stemke handled the chores the last month and a half of the 2004 season, after replacing deposed veteran Sean Landeta. Stemke averaged 39.8 yards in 28 punts during his most extensive in-season NFL stint in four years.

    The Rams apparently are content to ride the right leg of rookie Reggie Hodges into the summer and possibly into next season. Hodges, a Ball State product, was taken in the sixth round of the draft last month. For now, he's the only punter on the Rams roster.

    "We actually didn't think much of (the addition of Hodges) because Kevin has been punting (in the off-season) as well as he has his entire life," Murray said.

    Figuring the selection of Hodges was intended to stir up competition for the job the next few months, Stemke never saw the walking papers coming.

    "It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense," said Murray, who pressed Rams officials for an explanation last weekend.

    He gathered from those conversations that the decision to get rid of Stemke was rendered unilaterally by head coach Mike Martz, who is on his fourth special teams coach in six years.

    "Kevin had a good rapport with the new special teams coach. (The release) just doesn't make a whole lot of sense," Murray said. "It's the biggest hammer that's been thrown down with one of my clients."

    Murray said Stemke was in St. Louis on Tuesday meeting with Ligashesky. Attempts to reach Stemke, who cleared waivers Tuesday, were unsuccessful.

    "His (initial) reaction was, 'I'm done with the NFL,'" related Murray, "but that was off the cuff. He has no intention of giving up on playing in the NFL."

    To that end, Murray is optimistic Stemke will attract interest from other teams in the coming...
    -05-12-2005, 10:01 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Porter Trades In Pom-Poms For Rams' Special Teams
    by r8rh8rmike
    Porter trades in pom-poms for Rams’ special teams

    By Les Carpenter
    Yahoo! Sports

    ST. LOUIS – Quinn Porter(notes) plays special teams for the St. Louis Rams. He is listed on the roster as a running back, but his primary task is to return kickoffs and play the “gunner” (first man down the field) when the Rams punt. He is a gregarious man with an infectious laugh who gets so excited telling stories that sometimes his mind goes faster than his words. He then has to stop and start over.

    Some of this makes him no different than those who dress around him in the Rams’ locker room. What sets Porter apart, though, is that his teammates were recruited out of high school to play college football and were scouted by the NFL throughout their college careers. In most cases, the NFL is not a surprise.

    Porter, however, was recruited by no one. And when he did pay his way to tiny Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., he wasn’t academically eligible to play on the football team. So he did something that would be unthinkable to his NFL teammates:

    He became a cheerleader.

    “I prefer stuntman,” he says. Because after all, “cheerleader” leaves the impression he was screaming chants into a megaphone and Porter didn’t do that. Instead he clapped and threw the female cheerleaders into the air and caught them and stood next to the field on which he someday hoped to play.

    “Don’t forget you’re going places,” his mother, Kim Oliver, back in California, used to say. And so he believed her even as he wore the tight shirt, clapped and held other cheerleaders over his head.

    “He’s always been very determined,” Kim says.


    Football was Quinn’s dream since he was 7 years old and his stepfather, David Oliver, put him in pads and sent him out for his youth football games. But he grew only to be 5-foot-8, 165 pounds as a teenager and the coach at Quartz Hill High School outside Lancaster, Calif., didn’t like to play underclassmen, according to Oliver, so Porter played only his senior year. This didn’t dissuade him from his passion.

    He bombarded USC with the few game tapes he had, sending them as high up as athletic director Mike Garrett. Oliver, realizing a more modest goal for the child, sent tapes to smaller schools around the country with little response. It wasn’t until they attended an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) convention at their church that the name Stillman came up.

    It turned out there was a teacher at a local community college who knew the president of Stillman, and the subject of Porter’s possible enrollment was broached. He had never heard of Division II Stillman, but the football coaches seemed interested in having Porter walk on. Since he says the...
    -10-20-2011, 04:04 PM
  • MauiRam
    Hay's Journey Just Beginning ..
    by MauiRam
    By Nick Wagoner

    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.

    Where the road diverges, Hay doesn’t see football as just a sport or an opportunity to play a game he loves. For him, it’s so much more.

    “This game saved my life,” Hay says with an air of absolute certainty.

    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.

    Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse last week after starting every game at tackle for the Orange the past two years, Hay comes to the Rams with big dreams and every possible motivation to get his foot in the NFL door.

    It was only about five years ago that those dreams were almost dashed in an instant, gone with the swipe of a knife in a fistfight that spun wildly out of control. Hay had been stabbed in his chest, just below his left arm, cut through the rib cage and diaphragm, leaving a collapsed lung in its wake.

    As Hay was rushed to the hospital and headed to surgery, his thoughts turned quickly to the game he loves. With mother Maria and father Arthur in tow, Hay looked up at the attending surgeon and asked what the damage would be in terms of his football hopes.

    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.’”

    Hay grew up in a supportive family in College Point, New York, an industrial part of Queens, with two working parents doing all they can to provide for the family. There, he learned the importance of hard work from his father who was a construction worker in the city.

    Bigger than most kids his age, Hay became a force on a very talented Holy Cross High football team in Flushing. At 6’5, 283 pounds, Hay was one of the top linemen on one of the best teams in the city. He drew plenty of interest to play at the college level but none from any major Division I schools as he’d hoped.

    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.

    “It was to a point where we confronted each other in person...
    -05-11-2012, 10:21 PM
  • Nick
    Absolutely amazing story about sportsmanship
    by Nick
    Amid the grieving, a rare act of sportsmanship
    Associated Press
    February 18, 2009

    The coach never considered any other option.

    It didn't matter that his DeKalb, Ill., High School basketball team had ridden a bus two and a half hours to get to Milwaukee, then waited another hour past game time to play. Didn't matter that the game was close, or that this was a chance to beat a big city team.

    Something else was on Dave Rohlman's mind when he asked for a volunteer to shoot two free throws awarded his team on a technical foul in the second quarter. His senior captain raised his hand, ready to go to the line as he had many times before.

    Only this time it was different.

    "You realize you're going to miss them, don't you?" Rohlman said.

    Darius McNeal nodded his head. He understood what had to be done.

    It was a Saturday night in February, and the Barbs were playing a non-conference game on the road against Milwaukee Madison. It was the third meeting between the two schools, who were developing a friendly rivalry that spanned two states.

    The teams planned to get together after the game and share some pizzas and soda. But the game itself almost never took place.

    Hours earlier, the mother of Milwaukee Madison senior captain Johntel Franklin died at a local hospital. Carlitha Franklin had been in remission after a five-year fight with cervical cancer, but she began to hemorrhage that morning while Johntel was taking his college ACT exam.

    Her son and several of his teammates were at the hospital late that afternoon when the decision was made to turn off the life-support system. Carlitha Franklin was just 39.

    "She was young and they were real close," said Milwaukee coach Aaron Womack Jr., who was at the hospital. "He was very distraught and it happened so suddenly he didn't have time to grieve."

    Womack was going to cancel the game, but Franklin told him he wanted the team to play. And play they did, even though the game started late and Milwaukee Madison dressed only eight players.

    Early in the second quarter, Womack saw someone out of the corner of his eye. It was Franklin, who came there directly from the hospital to root his teammates on.

    The Knights had possession, so Womack called a time out. His players went over and hugged their grieving teammate. Fans came out of the stands to do the same.

    "We got back to playing the game and I asked if he wanted to come and sit on the bench," Womack said during a telephone interview.

    "No," Franklin replied. "I want to play."

    There was just one problem. Since Franklin wasn't on the pre-game roster, putting him in meant drawing a technical foul that would give DeKalb two free throws.

    -02-20-2009, 02:12 PM
  • RamWraith
    Ram's former punter is back just for kicks
    by RamWraith
    By Kathleen Nelson

    Sean Landeta has been gone only a year, but he has too much catching up to do.

    The Rams' former punter said he hoped to see some of his non-football friends when he returns to St. Louis with the Philadelphia Eagles for their game with the Rams on Sunday.

    "These guys I've known since '95," said Landeta who lived in St. Louis for a pair of two-year stints with the Rams. "They made my stay so great. They really made you feel welcome."

    He mentioned Gus Torregrossa of Gus' Fashion and Shoes and restaurateurs Charlie Gitto, Charlie Fazio of the Joe Fazio Bakery, Mark Cusumano of Kemoll's and Tony Catarinicchi from Gian-Tony's. Even for a bon vivant like Landeta, that's a lot of food and shopping in 24 hours, especially when he has to squeeze in a football game.

    "He might know just about everybody in every city, as long as he's been playing," Rams punter Bryan Barker said. A 16-year veteran, Barker delivered the line with a grin, a backhanded complement to Landeta's longevity.

    Landeta, 43, is in his 21st season in the NFL and is one of only nine players who have spent at least 20 seasons in the NFL. He ranks second on the all-time list with 1,379 punts, trailing Jeff Feagles of the New York Giants, who has punted 1,425 times. Landeta also is second in career punting average: 43.3 yards. He was a member of both the All-1980s and All-1990s teams and made Pro Football Digest's All-Time All-Pro team.

    Landeta had little time to bid adieu to friends because of his abrupt departure from St. Louis last year. He entered his last game with the Rams on Nov. 21, 2004, ranked second in the NFL in net punting average. After the Bills returned punts 53 and 86 yards, Landeta was the fall guy. He was released five days later.

    "I was so disappointed that I wouldn't be there," he said. "Everybody there, the coaches, players and the organization were so great to me."

    Landeta was replaced by Kevin Stemke, who lost the job in camp to rookie Reggie Hodges. The youngster lasted five games before being replaced by Barker. Landeta spent two weeks in the Eagles' camp before being released but continued to train on a high school field near his home in Manhasset, N.Y.

    The injury bug that plagued the Eagles at key positions also hit punter Dirk Johnson. The Eagles signed Hodges, who lasted three games before being replaced by Nick Murphy on Nov. 22. Landeta was signed the following week.

    "I brought a lot of young guys in and tried them out," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I figure Sean might not kick it the furthest, like he used to, but I at least know it's going to be the same depth every time."

    Considering the short leash on which most punters are kept, longevity...
    -12-17-2005, 06:26 AM