Put on by the players’ union, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl isn’t just about the game, it’s about what the 104 aspiring future pros could be facing at the next level on and off the field.
We would be out literally in practice, during practice, talking about playing in LA. Honestly. How nice would it be to be practicing in LA? Just go to the mall after practice in LA. It’s such a beautiful day in LA all the time.
Some bold statements and, no doubt, a bit of controversy during Friday’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Media Day.
Los Angeles is so attractive. All the people that are out here, all the celebrities. The celebrity that you get from playing for the LA team. All the hookups that you’re going to get — you’re going to go to restaurants and clubs, get clothes. I played in New York, so I saw the big town, the media. There are so many eyes on you it’s a great opportunity
The bold one was St. Louis Rams wide receiver Steve Smith. He said this coming season would be the last for the Rams in St. Louis and that he and his Rams teammates prefer to play in Los Angeles and would be kicking off in the City of Angels in 2014.
Smith, a native of Los Angeles who played his college ball at USC and attended Taft high school in Woodland Hills, Calif. (not coincidentally the same high school and college of current Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.), was one of five expert panelists discussing the return of the NFL to Los Angeles.
“We’re thankful for the city of St. Louis.” Smith said. He continued, “But it’d be a treat to be located back home in Los Angeles.”
Of course, the Rams called Los Angeles home from 1946 until their move to St. Louis to kickoff the 1995 season. They’re now locked in arbitration with the city of St. Louis on the cost to make the Edward Jones Dome a “first tier” NFL stadium and could break their lease after the 2014 season.
I was able to catch up and interview Smith on camera after the panel discussion and asked him to elaborate on his bold predictions regarding the Rams and Los Angeles:
Last year was Smith’s first with the Rams. He played in just nine games catching 14 passes for 131 yards and no touchdowns.
Two of these four panelist agreed the Rams would return while one said the San Diego Chargers and Rams would both eventually move to L.A. Another said, “I don’t know.”
Stadium issues for the Rams in St. Louis which could render their lease at the Edward Jones Dome null and void by 2014 which could return the franchise back to Los Angeles where it called home for 49 years prior to moving to the midwest in 1995.
Owner Stan Kroenke committing one regular season Rams home game each of the next three seasons away from the Gateway City and heading across the pond to Wembley Stadium in London beginning next season.
They made their presence felt at Saturday’s inaugural AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Amongst a cozy crowd of some 1500 football fans, about 75 to 100 Bring Back the Los Angeles Rams members sat in a section directly behind the National conference bench who were led by ex-St. Louis Rams head coach Dick Vermeil.
Listening to non-stop chants of “L.A. Rams…L.A. Rams!” and “Bring them back!…..Bring them back!” throughout the contest, both Vermeil and Bruce, who both got their NFL roots with the Los Angeles Rams, couldn’t ignore them.
After the game, hearing their chants of “Bruuuuuuuce”, he went over to their section to greet the fans and sign some autographs.
“I played my rookie year with the Los Angeles Rams and played my junior college ball at Santa Monica College.” said Bruce. “I wouldn’t change anything in my career but I sure did miss playing in L.A. during winter when it’s 70 degrees outside.”
Bruce even asked me who the last Los Angeles Ram was to catch a touchdown pass. It happened on Christmas Eve 1994 at Anaheim Stadium. I couldn’t answer it.
We weren’t sure. I checked and guessed right. It was Miller.
As for the NFL returning to L.A., Bruce believes it’s inevitable.
“Surprising it’s been 17 years. This is a great place to play. These fans deserve a team. They’ll have a team here as soon as a new stadium’s built.”
When asked about a possible return by the Rams, it’s all speculation to him.
“I wouldn’t know. That’s business. We have loyal fans in St. Louis. Was a lot of fun playing there especially during the ‘Greatest Show On Turf‘ years.”
Vermeil’s National Conference squad got the best of Tom Flores’ American Conference squad, 20-14.
After the game I asked the coach about those loud L.A. Rams fans in the stands.
Soon, a brand new state-of-the-art stadium will be built in the City of Angels and at that time, we’ll all know if the Rams were brought back to it.
As if trying to catch the eye of pro football scouts wasn’t difficult and stressful enough for former Penn State Nittany Lion players Jon Rohrbaugh and Andrew Szczerba, getting the news their college coach was “near death” made their task even greater Saturday night.
Playing for the American Conference in the inaugural AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Game at Home Depot Center in Carson, California, both players were told about Joe Paterno’s failing health from Tom Flores, their head coach in the game, just before kickoff.
“He was truly a father figure for me and my teammates on and off the field,” said Rohrbaugh, a long snapper in the bowl game. “His line to all of us was always ’Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. “
The 85 year old winningest coach in FBS history, Paterno, who was the Nittany Lions head coach for six decades, is suffering serious complications from treatments for lung cancer that was diagnosed November 18th of last year, just nine days after being fired in the wake of sexual abuse charges against former assistant Jerry Sandusky.
As of Saturday night, Paterno was still connected to a ventilator at Mount Nittany Medial Center in State College, Pennsylvania. His family was debating taking him off the ventilator Sunday morning.