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  • Long shots hope to defy the odds, stick with Rams

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Tuesday, Aug. 23 2005

    The "Turk" isn't here yet, but he's on his way. By Aug. 30, NFL rosters must be
    trimmed to 65. By Sept. 4, each roster shrinks to the regular-season limit of
    53.

    So in less than two weeks, one out of every three players currently practicing
    with the Rams will be out of a job. For some, these next few days will be their
    last in professional football.

    Until then, there's always hope. Hope that they can survive the roster
    cutdowns, and maybe - just maybe - become the next London Fletcher or Kurt
    Warner. Here's our annual look at some Rams roster long shots hoping to beat
    the odds:


    Jeremy Calahan: The next Zgonina?

    He has a stocky frame, thick calves, and wears jersey No. 90. If only Calahan
    were crabby on a regular basis, he'd be a dead ringer for Jeff Zgonina. The
    Rams thought so, too.

    "They took a picture of me and sent it to Zgonina as kind of a joke," Calahan
    said.

    The picture, taken in the Rams' indoor practice facility, shows defensive line
    coach Bill Kollar with his arm around Calahan. Zgonina, now with Miami, wore
    jersey No. 90 in five seasons with the Rams.

    "I didn't know (about the similarities) until I'd seen him on film," Calahan
    said. "The guy's just massive. He's huge. And he's a great player. I hope one
    day I can be at his level."

    At Rice, Calahan started three games as a true freshman, and was a full-time
    starter his final three college seasons. He's a hustle player who has shown a
    good inside push at times on the practice field. For a while, it looked as
    though he might give Brian Howard a run for the fourth defensive tackle spot
    behind first-round draft picks Ryan Pickett, Jimmy Kennedy, and Damione Lewis.
    But the arrival of 13-year NFL veteran John Parrella may change the depth-chart
    dynamics.

    Not that it seems to matter to Calahan.

    "I'm having the time of my life," he said recently. "I think I fit in well with
    Coach Kollar. He's an effort and hard-work guy. He got me in here. So I'm just
    loving it. Just living a dream."

    If it doesn't work out, Calahan might start pursuing another dream - as the
    next super agent, or the next Jay Zygmunt. He already has his degree in
    economics, sports management and business management.


    Clifford Dukes: Spartan spirit

    Five years ago, Dukes and Rams quarterback Jeff Smoker entered Michigan State
    together.

    "I redshirted, so he left school a year before me," Dukes said. "We were
    actually suite-mates. Freshman year in the dorm we shared a bathroom. So we
    crossed paths a little bit."

    From the moment Dukes signed with the Rams as a rookie free agent in April,
    Smoker has helped him get through minicamps, the OTAs (organized team
    activities), and now, the first four weeks of camp and preseason.

    The best advice Dukes has gotten from Smoker?

    "Accept coaching," Dukes said. "You're a rookie. You're going to be cursed at,
    you're going to be screamed at, so just accept the coaching. It's constructive
    criticism. So just go with the flow, and don't take it as a blow."

    As a junior at Michigan State, Dukes registered seven sacks, returned a fumble
    for a touchdown and earned second-team all-Big Ten honors. But he was slowed by
    injuries as a senior, most notably a sprained knee, and finished with only 2
    1/2 sacks. Dukes didn't get drafted, but he had a couple of options with NFL
    teams as a free agent.

    "I chose to come here because I saw the depth chart," Dukes said. "I'm glad I'm
    here in St. Louis. ... I really would like to help this team out."

    The Rams entered training camp looking for a fourth defensive end behind
    Leonard Little, Anthony Hargrove and Tyoka Jackson. Dukes will have to make
    something big happen, and make it happen quickly, because Brandon Green already
    has two sacks this preseason.


    Remy Hamilton: Getting his kicks

    To this day, Hamilton remains the only kicker in Michigan Wolverines history to
    earn all-American honors. Over the last eight seasons, the past four with the
    Los Angeles Avengers, he has carved out a niche as one of the top kickers in
    Arena Football League history.

    "When I came out of college, my goal was obviously the NFL," said Hamilton, who
    turns 31 on Tuesday. "Over the years that I've progressed with Arena and been
    accomplishing a bunch, I'm becoming more, I guess, complacent about being
    there. And happy to be there. But I'd really love the opportunity to kick in
    the NFL."

    It's not going to happen in St. Louis, where Pro Bowler Jeff Wilkins is firmly
    entrenched. Hamilton has handled place- kicking chores in the first two
    preseason games, but only because the Rams want to rest Wilkins' leg.

    "Any time I can be around a veteran like Jeff Wilkins, it's a great
    opportunity," Hamilton said. "He's been great. I'm learning a lot of things
    from him, and just trying to get better."

    If nothing else, Hamilton is getting a chance to showcase what he can do for
    other NFL teams that might be looking for a kicker. Unfortunately for Hamilton,
    he's had only one field goal attempt, a 33-yarder that he made against Chicago.

    But he's had plenty of chances to display his leg strength on kickoffs. He's
    been good there, but not outstanding. On average, his six regular kickoffs -
    excluding two onside kicks against San Diego - have landed on the 6-yard line.
    The average return on those kicks has been 22.7 yards.


    Erik Jensen: Battling the injury bug

    Nearly a year ago at this time, all was well with Erik Jensen. The
    seventh-round draft pick from Iowa was starting on a couple of special-teams
    units. A tight end and fullback, he was running with the second team at
    fullback.

    "I was satisfied with my situation at that point," he said. "Just looking
    forward to getting my season going, getting on all the special teams, and then
    maybe working into some more reps during the regular season. But that ended at
    the Oakland game."

    In the fourth quarter of the Rams' 2004 preseason finale against the Raiders,
    Jensen caught a pass from Smoker and was steaming toward the end zone. If
    Jensen could do it over again, perhaps he simply would put his head down and
    try to bulldoze through the defense.

    Instead, he dived for the end zone, dislocating his left knee in the process.
    He needed surgery, and was placed on the injured reserve list, ending his
    rookie season before it really got started.

    In the offseason the Rams signed veteran free agent tight end Roland Williams
    and drafted Notre Dame's Jerome Collins in the fifth round to play the same
    position.

    "I'm a low-round guy," Jensen said. "I've got to earn my spot every year."

    Missing more than two weeks of training camp this year didn't help his cause.
    Jensen got hurt again this year, suffering a lower back injury in the first
    week of camp.

    "I was blocking and just got twisted real funny, and it kind of went," Jensen
    said.

    He returned to practice last week, but he didn't play against the Chargers and
    is running out of time to earn a roster spot.

    "I've had about the worst luck anybody could have in the first year, and the
    beginning of this year," Jensen said.

  • #2
    Re: Long shots hope to defy the odds, stick with Rams

    Good article. Thanks!

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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."

      Anderson looks the part. He has 4.35 speed and doesn't seem overwhelmed on the field. What he needs is work on technique and focus. And no more silly penalties, like his costly holding penalty last week against Chicago.

      "It was an iffy call," Anderson said. "But you know the refs, they're cutting down on a lot of that holding."

      WR Brian Sump: Building a career

      With about a semester's worth of additional work at the Colorado School of Mines, Sump will earn his degree in civil engineering. He's in no hurry. Before he starts building dams and bridges, he'd like to build an NFL career.

      Sump...
      -08-20-2004, 06:12 AM
    • RamWraith
      Long shots try to beat the odds with Rams
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      Wednesday, Aug. 16 2006

      When the Rams opened exhibition play last week against Indianapolis, scouts
      from 20 NFL teams watched at the Edward Jones Dome, as did representatives from
      three Canadian League squads and an Arena League club. There will be nearly as
      many scouts in attendance this Saturday when Houston comes to town.

      They're not coming to the Gateway City to watch Torry Holt and Orlando Pace.
      They're looking for help -- players who might be cut in a couple of weeks by
      the Rams but might fill a need on their respective teams.

      As the days dwindle before the final roster cuts in late August and early
      September, Rams roster long shots "" like the four listed below -- know that a
      lot of eyes are upon them. They may not be the next Kurt Warner or London
      Fletcher in St. Louis, but that doesn't mean it can't happen somewhere:

      Fred Russell

      Now you see him, now you don't. Not only does the diminutive Russell have
      4.4-second speed, he can be very elusive. For that, he thanks Mom and Dad.

      "That's from getting spankings when I was younger -- running from my parents,"
      he said, laughing.

      For two seasons at Iowa, Russell ran all over the Big Ten. He became only the
      third Hawkeye to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, earning
      all-conference honors in 2002 and '03.

      But his lack of size -- 5-7, 195 pounds -- has made it tough for Russell to
      measure up in the NFL.

      As an undrafted rookie in '04, Russell led Miami in rushing during the
      preseason, including an 88-yard run. But he didn't make the final roster, and
      spent most of that season on Chicago's practice squad. After a preseason stint
      with the Bears last summer, Russell was out of football until the Rams signed
      him in January. He was allocated to NFL Europe, where he led the Cologne
      Centurions with 522 yards rushing on 150 carries last spring.

      Russell was impressive in the Rams' scrimmage Aug. 5, and had a 54-yard run in
      the preseason opener against Indianapolis. But with Steven Jackson, Tony
      Fisher, and Moe Williams ahead of him on the depth chart, he faces an uphill
      battle unless coach Scott Linehan decides to go with four halfbacks.

      "I'm hoping this will be a good situation for me," Russell said. "I'm here with
      a solid power back (Jackson). Hopefully, my change-of-pace style can complement
      that."

      Adam Haayer

      Haayer has a taste of what it's like to play -- and start -- in the NFL. From
      2002 through '04 he played in eight games for Minnesota, including a start in
      '04 against the Bears at right offensive tackle. Last...
      -08-16-2006, 06:06 AM
    • RamWraith
      Rams long shots bring hope to practice
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      08/17/2007


      Every morning, safety Andre Kirkland shows up for work at Rams Park, walks into the locker room, looks into his locker stall and gazes upon his jersey sporting No. 43.

      He tells himself: "OK, I got another day. Thank you, Lord, for another day."

      Kirkland earned second-team Mid-American Conference honors last season at Kent State but did not get drafted. The Rams signed him as a rookie free agent May 2, and ever since he has received a steady stream of calls and text messages from friends. They want to know anything and everything about the Rams.

      "Like, 'How big is Steven Jackson?'" Kirkland said. "Or, 'Who's better? Torry or Isaac?'"


      Kirkland faces an uphill struggle, to put it mildly, trying to make the squad in St. Louis. Corey Chavous and Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe are firmly entrenched as the starting safeties. Jerome Carter and Todd Johnson appear to have a stranglehold on the backup jobs. At best, Kirkland is fighting for the No. 5 spot, but there's a chance the Rams will keep only four safeties.

      "I try not to look at the numbers," Kirkland said. "They say when you do, that's when you're out the door. I just try to do my job. If I don't make it here, hopefully, I'll make it somewhere else. All the veterans say that you're auditioning for all the teams, all 32."

      In the meantime, Kirkland is trying to enjoy every moment in the NFL.

      "It's everything I've dreamed about and prayed about," Kirkland said. "I walk in there every day, and I'm like, 'Man! I'm an NFL player.'"

      Kirkland is one of several long shots trying to make the Rams' roster. Some others:




      Last season, John David Washington was a novelty. Undrafted out of Morehouse College, he attracted lots of attention during training camp, but not because he's the only player in Morehouse history to rush for 1,100 yards-plus in two seasons. He's the son of Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington.

      But this season, Washington is just another of the guys. A football player trying to earn a job in the NFL.

      "I feel comfortable here, definitely, with my teammates," Washington said. "They understand that I'm here to play ball. I'm not here to act like I'm playing ball. I'm not in Hollywood. This is what I've been wanting to do since I was a little boy. So I do feel a lot more comfortable with my dad out of the picture, so to speak."

      His father, the famous actor, still attends as many Rams exhibition games as possible. In fact, he attended the team's preseason opener last week in Minnesota. But Denzel Washington has a way of avoiding attention.

      "I don't think he really understood, either, until...
      -08-17-2007, 07:15 PM
    • RamWraith
      Rams Cut Hart Graduate
      by RamWraith
      6/9/2006
      Matt Wing / Signal Staff Writer


      Wednesday morning Josh Cummings was working out with the St. Louis Rams as an NFL kicker.
      By Wednesday afternoon he was on his way back to Pittsburgh — living the life of the unemployed.
      The former Hart High and College of the Canyons kicker was cut after just over a month with the team when the Rams decided to bring back Remy Hamilton, a five-year veteran of the Arena Football League, who was with the team during the 2005 preseason.
      Hamilton was the 2005 AFL Kicker of the Year with the Los Angeles Avengers.
      Cummings went to practice Wednesday morning and was lifting weights with the team when he was called up to the coach’s office where he was told the news.
      His reaction: “I just wanted to know how I was getting home.”
      The Rams wasted no time answering that question.
      After the meeting, which took place around noon, Cummings was on a flight at 2:30 p.m. headed to Pittsburgh.
      Cummings was offered the backup kicking position during training camp and the preseason by the Rams’ special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, just after the NFL Draft on April 30 — right in the middle of the kicker’s graduation ceremony from the University of Pittsburgh.
      He participated in the Rams’ first rookie mini-camp on May 9-11 and another mini-camp May 16-18 before a full-squad mini-camp last week.
      “There’s nothing more that I could have done (during the mini-camps),” Cummings said. “They thought (Hamilton) was going to get picked up by Dallas and didn’t so they brought him back.”
      He was brought into St. Louis to take the majority of training camp and preseason kicks to lighten the load on veteran kicker Jeff Wilkins.
      Cummings was told when he accepted the job offer that he would be eventually cut in favor of Wilkins, but it would have been a great opportunity to show off his talents for other NFL teams.
      Now he hopes another team is willing to take a chance on him.
      Nothing is lined up yet but Cummings is still pursuing an NFL kicking career.
      “Right now I’m just talking with my agent to see where my options are and go from there,” Cummings said. “I haven’t really heard anything yet.”
      Cummings has received other job offers outside of football, but will do whatever it takes to continue his kicking career — with anyone willing to take the chance.
      “I’m going to keep trying to make a team,” Cummings said. “Even if it’s with an arena team. As long as I’m getting paid to kick a football, it doesn’t bother me.”
      -06-09-2006, 12:07 PM
    • RamWraith
      Rookies feel challenged, blessed by life in the NFL
      by RamWraith
      By Bill Coats
      Of the Post-Dispatch
      Saturday, Nov. 13 2004

      Rookie linebacker Brandon Chillar sometimes can't help himself. He looks around
      the Rams' locker room at stalls labeled "Faulk," "Bruce," "Holt," "Little" and
      "Pace," and just shakes his head.

      "This is what I've been praying for, this is what I've been working for, this
      is what I've wanted to do for so long," said Chillar, a fourth-round draft
      choice from UCLA. "It's what I asked for, and it's what I got. So, I'm blessed.
      I must be living right or something."

      Chillar is one of 12 first-year players who rise every day and report to Rams
      Park in Earth City. A year ago, they woke up on college campuses and headed for
      class.

      "This is a job; it's not just football," said cornerback Dwight Anderson, an
      undrafted rookie from the University of South Dakota. "You come in here at 6
      o'clock in the morning, and you come to work. It's just like your mom goes to
      work at 7 and comes home at 5. This is our job. ... But it's a fun job."

      Chillar said the commercial aspect of pro football came as a bit of jolt. "You
      start to learn how much of a business the NFL is," he said. "That's one thing
      that I didn't expect so much. Maybe that's just being a dumb rookie."

      But safety Jason Shivers said the NFL experience "is pretty much what I thought
      it would be. You have to get used to the stringent routine, because it's day in
      and day out. You have to really be focused 100 percent of the day. I think
      that's the biggest change" from college football.

      Shivers, a fifth-round pick from Arizona State, has yet to see game action,
      spending most of the season on the practice squad. "It's disappointing because
      I know that I'm better than that," he said. "But all I can do is just keep
      working and hopefully I'll get on the active (roster) and then I can get out
      there and do my thing."

      Others have been asked to contribute right away, despite their first-year
      status. Chillar has started four games; running back Steven Jackson, the team's
      first-round selection (No. 24 overall), is getting steady work spelling
      Marshall Faulk; and third-round pick Anthony Hargrove, an end from Georgia
      Tech, has been filling an increasing role on the defensive line rotation.

      "Things right now are going exceptionally for me, being able to compete on this
      level," said Jackson, an Oregon State product. "All the things I was going to
      deal with, Coach (Mike) Martz and his staff did a great job of exposing me to
      that early on. They kind of let...
      -11-13-2004, 08:03 PM
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