The weather at Rams Park gave the players a slight break from the heat last Friday. Temperatures were cooperative, as was the humidity. The cloud cover and the west-to-east winds almost made it bearable.
But if you’ve lived here long enough, you know the real baste-and-bake phase of a typical St. Louis swelter has yet to come. Poor rookies – they have no idea how warm and gooey it’s going to get during training camp. The maternal instinct in me wants to warn them, but then I wonder if ignorance is bliss. Besides, they’ll figure it out soon enough.
Everything Else Is Just Football
The rookies will navigate new obstacles as they take that next step from college life to the complicated world of playing in the NFL – more temptations, new teammates and coaches, more money than they’re used to having, colossal playbooks and grueling daily routines.
Teams do what they can to make the transition easier by having rookie minicamps prior to full squad OTAs (organized team activities). They get their own how-to course before the veterans arrive at Rams Park.
When asked if head coach Jeff Fisher’s freshman orientation helped, former Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson replied, “Of course. Rookie minicamp was two days. (We) came out here and did the drills we were going to do in OTAs. We went over the playbook. They’re still installing plays now so I’ve been trying to take that all in and learn as much as I can every day.”
No deer-in-headlights anxiety for this rookie. Yes, he’ll probably make some newbie mistakes along the way, but Johnson had a calm confidence about him.
But is the change bigger than he had imagined? “(It was a) way bigger transition from college, (but) just speed-wise. Everything else is just football,” Johnson said. I immediately appreciated his bring-it-on attitude.
I’ll Be There
He actually walked right past me at first, so I had to hail him down. I don’t think Johnson was expecting an Asian female to ask him football questions. He did a quick double-take and gave me a bright smile as if to say, “Oops, sorry.”
You can’t miss Johnson, though. He stands at 6 feet, 2 inches, noticeably taller than most of the Rams secondary. Johnson took advantage of his God-given height and hops during an 11-on-11 drill toward the end of practice.
In a skillfully timed play, he broke up a pass intended for rookie wide receiver Brian Quick. (Quick has a couple of inches on Johnson.) “It was 3rd and 15, I knew they had to go deep nine route which is basically a fade. Just played it man-to-man, basically a one-on-one.” The Rams have height on both sides of the line! No way…
Trumaine, or “Tru” as some call him, played cornerback at Montana. Scouts and so-called experts don’t think he has the closing speed and enough experience against big-time opponents to make it as a shutdown corner in the NFL.
These naysayers also have him switching to safety, but that doesn’t faze Tru at all. “It’s not going to change the way I play,” he said. “As long as I’m on the field and producing it doesn’t really matter to me. Whatever the coach needs I’ll be there.”
I’m not going to lie: I am really looking forward to watching him and other standout rookies (Janoris Jenkins, Quick and Michael Brockers) tear it up this season. Pass some more Fisher/Les Snead Kool-Aid, please.
Keeping It Humble
“I’ve got about fifteen tattoos,” he said when I asked about the two, one on each of his forearms. The left one reads, “Pray about everything, worry about nothing,” and the right forearm, “Never forget where you come from.”
Tru was selected in the third round (65th overall pick) of the NFL draft in April. He has been named All-American, All-Big Sky Conference during his college career and received other awards. But it didn’t seem like he lets it all get to his head.
“I’m from Stockton, California. No matter where I go, I always look at this and it reminds me to just always stay humble. I came from humble beginnings so I might as well keep it humble.”
The kid knows exactly the right things to say. Or does he?
Tru is a physical threat on the field, humble off the field and even cherishes one of my all-time favorite Bible verses (Philippians 4:13). He’s winning major brownie points at this point. But then, I went and asked a question that I really wish I hadn’t asked.
“What’s one thing most people wouldn’t know about you?” His reply: “I love to play basketball. I played point guard all the way to center. We went to state in basketball two out of my four years in high school. So I love basketball.”
Naturally the conversation gravitated toward the NBA playoffs. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m not fond of a certain South Beach team. And if you follow Tru on Twitter (@Trujohnson2), it’s awfully apparent where his allegiance lies. I knew, but I really didn’t know how deep his loyalty was.
“I am a Heat fan. I’m a big Heat fan. I ride for LeBron and D-Wade. I love LeBron so I’m defending him to the fullest.”
Drive a dagger through my chest, why don’t you. Ugh, I guess nobody’s perfect.
(For what it’s worth, we buried the hatchet the next day when we discovered our mutual fondness for Twizzlers. So we’re all good now.)
Thanks for chatting with me, Tru. Looking forward to great things from you this season.