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Super Bowl XXXVI -- Rams sketches

Feb. 1, 2002 at 12:41 PM   |   Comments

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- St. Louis Rams sketches:

Coach -- Mike Martz -- In his second year as coach after Dick Vermeil retired following the club's win in Super Bowl XXXIV. Widely considered one of the top offensive minds in football. In the Rams' Super Bowl winning season, Martz was the offensive coordinator of one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history when St. Louis scored 526 points, the third most in league history. In Martz's first season as coach, the Rams were even better when they amassed 540 total points. Under Martz's guidance, the Rams have produced three straight Most Valuable Players in quarterback Kurt Warner 1999 and 2001 and running back Marshall Faulk in 2000. After the Rams' victory over

New England earlier this season, Martz called the Patriots "The Best" team his club played.

OFFENSE

QB -- 13 Kurt Warner, 6-2, 220, 4th year -- Won his second Most Valuable Player award in the last three seasons. Passed for 4,830 yards, the second-highest total in NFL history to go along with 36 touchdown passes. Directed an offense that led the league in points (503) for the the third straight season. Warner went 22-of-33 for 212 yards and a touchdown in the Rams' 29-24 victory over Philadelphia in the NFC championship game.

Completed 30-of-42 passes for a season-high 401 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 24-17 victory at New England on Nov.18. In 1999, became the most improbable MVP in NFL history. A virtual unknown before the season, Warner went unclaimed in the expansion draft and was pressed into a starting role when free agent signee Trent Green suffered torn knee ligaments in a preseason game. Yet after toiling in the

Arena League and NFL Europe, Warner enjoyed one of the best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history, becoming only the second player to throw 40 or more touchdown passes in a season with 41 and recording the fifth-best passer rating (109.2) in

league history. Capped the season off in fairy book style in Super Bowl XXXIV, throwing for a record 414 yards in a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Threw a 73-yard touchdown

pass to Isaac Bruce with 1:54 remaining to give the Rams the winning points. Played for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena League from 1995-97. Started for the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL

Europe in 1998 and led the league in passing yards (2,101) and touchdowns (15). Spent 1994 training camp with the Green Bay Packers.

RB -- 28 Marshall Faulk, 5-10, 211, 8th year -- Returning to his hometown for Super Bowl XXXVI. Born and raised in New Orleans and played at Carver High School. The NFL's most versatile back has amassed at least 2,000 yards in four straight seasons.

Finished this past season with 2,147 total yards (1,382 rushing and 765 receiving) to go along with 21 total touchdowns. In the NFC championship game victory over Philadelphia, Faulk rushed for a career playoff-high 159 yards on 31 carries and two second-half touchdowns. In a victory over New England on Nov. 18, Faulk carried 20 times for 83 yards and had seven catches for 70 yards, including a nine-yard TD reception. Rushed for a season-best 202 yards in a victory over Carolina in December. Earned NFL Most Valuable Player honors in 2000 in a remarkable season in which saw him set a league record with 26 touchdowns. In 1999, Faulk an all-time record for yards from scrimmage with 2,429 (1,381 rushing, 1,048 receiving) and became the second player in NFL history with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season (Roger Craig in 1985). Has been named to the Pro Bowl six times in his eight-year career. Acquired from Indianapolis for the bargain price of a second-and fifth-round pick on April 15, 1999. Second overall pick in 1994 earned Rookie Of the Year honors.

FB -- 42 James Hodgins, 6-1, 270, 3rd year -- Replaced Robert Holcombe as the club's fullback this season. More of a blocker than an offensive threat. But had a four-yard touchdown

reception in the Rams' divisional round rout of Green Bay. Also had an 11-yard touchdown reception in the first meeting against New England. In 16 games this season, had a mere combined 28 total yards. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of San Jose State in 1999.

WR -- 80 Isaac Bruce, 6-0, 188, 8th year -- Will be matched against left cornerback Otis Smith in Super Bowl XXXVI. Earned his third straight Pro Bowl selection after catching 64 passes

for 1,106 yards and six touchdowns. Had eight catches for 84 yards, including a five-yard TD reception in the NFC championship game. Finished with seven catches for 130 yards in the first meeting against New England. Has played in 48 straight regular season games after being limited to five games in the 1998 campaign due to lingering hamstring problems. Made one of most famous plays in the illustrious history of Rams football, catching a 73-yard touchdown pass from Kurt Warner with under two minutes remaining in the club's 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. Has 540 career catches for 8,405 yards and 57 touchdowns in 109 games. Set career highs with 119 receptions for 1,781 yards in 1995, the best ever for a Rams receiver. A second-round pick in 1994 out of Memphis State.

WR -- 88 Torry Holt, 6-0, 190, 3rd year -- Lines up across right cornerback Ty Law in Super Bowl XXXVI. Although Isaac Bruce gains more headlines, it was Holt that was Kurt Warner's favorite target this season, catching 81 passes for 1,363 yards

and seven touchdowns. Had seven catches for 89 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown against New England earlier this season. Earned Pro Bowl honors in Rams' Super Bowl winning season in 1999 after catching 52 passes for 788 yards and six touchdowns. In Super Bowl XXXIV against Tennessee, set rookie record for receptions (seven) and receiving yards (109). Also had a nine-yard TD reception in the third quarter. The sixth overall pick in the 1999 draft out of North Carolina State.

TE -- 84 Ernie Conwell, 6-1, 265, 6th year -- Matches up against strong safety Lawyer Milloy in Super Bowl XXXVI. In his first full season as the starter, Conwell had 38 receptions for 431 yards and four touchdowns. A sure-handed receiver and also one of the club's best blockers. His 16-yard reception in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXIV helped set up the Rams' first touchdown of the game. Started the first seven games of the

1998 season before tearing his right ACL.

LT -- 76 Orlando Pace, 6-7, 320, 5th year -- Will be matched against right end Anthony Pleasant in Super Bowl XXXVI. Suffered a strained MCL in his right knee in the second quarter of the NFC championship game but returned to the contest. First overall pick in the 1997 draft, Pace is one of the premier tackles in the game and was named as a Pro Bowl starter. Has earned three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. Legendary college career at Ohio State where he became the first player to win two consecutive Lombardi awards, given to the best lineman, and an Outland Trophy for best interior lineman. Applied for draft after junior year and became the first offensive lineman chosen first overall in 30 years.

LG -- 61 Tom Nutten, 6-5, 300, 5th year -- Will be matched against rookie Richard Seymour in Super Bowl XXXVI. Was a teammate of quarterback Kurt Warner with Amsterdam in 1998. Started his career at right guard but shifted to the left side

prior to the 1999 season and has been a starter since. Originally drafted by Buffalo as a seventh-round pick in 1995. Played with Hamilton of the CFL in 1997.

C -- 67 Andy McCollum, 6-4, 300, 8th year -- Matches up against middle linebacker Tedy Bruschi in Super Bowl XXXVI. Started all 16 games for the second straight season. A versatile lineman who can play both guard and center. In the Rams' Super Bowl season in 1999, he played in all 16 regular season games. Signed as an unrestriced free agent on April 13, 1999 after spending his first five seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

RG -- 62 Adam Timmerman, 6-4, 300, 7th year -- Will be matched against nose tackle Brandon Mitchell in Super Bowl XXXVI. A starter at right guard in each of the last three seasons after

signing as a free agent in February 1999. A starter on Green Bay's back-to-back Super Bowl teams in 1996 and 1997. A seventh-round pick in 1995, Timmerman played the first four years of his career with Green Bay. Has played in 16 postseason games.

RT -- 50 Ryan Tucker, 6-5, 305, 5th year -- Matches up against Bobby Hamilton in Super Bowl XXXVI. Missed the divisional round victory over Green Bay with a sprained ankle but returned for the NFC championship game. Became a starter at right tackle following the departure of Fred Miller as a free agent following the 1999 season.

DEFENSE

LE -- 91 Leonard Little, 6-3, 237, 4th year -- Will be matched against second-year tackle Greg Robinson-Randall in Super Bowl XXXVI. Had two sacks and forced a fumble in the NFC championship game against Philadelphia. A major part of the Rams' overhauled defense. In his first full season as a starter at left end, Little finished second in the NFC with 14 1/2 sacks. One of the club's fastest players on defense. Shifted from linebacker to defensive end prior to the start of the 2000 season. Suspended for the first eight games of the 1998 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. A third round pick out of Tennessee in 1998.

DT -- 90 Jeff Zgonina, 6-2, 300, 9th year -- Matches up against Mike Compton in Super Bowl XXXVI. One of the club's top run stuffers, Zgonina suffered a hyperextended elbow in the

divisional round against Green Bay but returned for the NFC championship game. Moved into the starting lineup this season after being part of a rotation along the defensive line in each

of the last three seasons. In the 1999 NFC championship game against Tampa Bay, he recorded one sack and two tackles. Had four tackles in Super Bowl XXXIV against Tennessee.

DT -- 66 Brian Young, 6-2, 278, 2nd year -- Will be matched against Joe Andruzzi in Super Bowl XXXVI. A 2000 fifth-round pick out of Texas El Paso, Young moved into the starting lineup

this season and ranked third on the club with 6 1/2 sacks. Appeared in 12 games as a rookie in a reserve role as a tackle and on special teams. One of four Rams defensive lineman that earned Conference Player of the Year honors as collegiate.

Selected as a third team All-America.

RE -- 98 Grant Wistrom, 6-4, 267, 4th year -- Matches up against rookie tackle Matt Light in Super Bowl XXXVI. Collected a sack in the NFC championship game against Philadelphia. One of the fastest Rams lineman, Wistrom finished second on the team with 10 sacks. A starter at defensive end in each of the last three seasons. Enjoyed his best season in 2000, registering a career-high 11 sacks. Won the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's top college lineman, at Nebraska in 1997.

SLB -- 58 Don Davis, 6-1, 234, 6th year -- Signed a two-year contract with the Rams as an unrestricted free agent after spending the last two seasons with Tampa Bay. Battled rookie

Tommy Polley for the starting job during training camp. Also a key contributor on special teams. Prior to this season, had played in 56 games in his career without starting.

MLB -- 59 London Fletcher, 6-0, 241, 4th year -- Matches up against center Damien Woody in Super Bowl XXXVI. The emotional leader of the defense. Led the team in tackles to go along with 4 1/2 sacks. In 2000, made a career high and team-record 193 tackles. In Super Bowl XXXIV against Tennessee, led the Rams with 14 tackles. Nicknamed "dot com" for his ability to read opposing teams' offensive plays prior to games. Product of Division III John Carroll University. Hall of Fame coach Don Shula is an alumnus of John Carroll. Fletcher signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in April 1998 and surprisingly

made the team.

WLB -- 52 Tommy Polley, 6-3, 218, Rookie -- Saw increased playing time as the season went on. Finished with a team-leading 11 tackles in the NFC championship game victory over Philadelphia. Also was big in the divisional round win over Green Bay, returning an interception 34 yards for a touchdown while leading the team with eight tackles. One of the Rams' fastest linebackers and a very effective blitzer off the edge. A two-time all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection at Florida

State. As a senior was a semifinalist for the Dick Butkus Award, given to the nation's best linebacker.

LCB -- 35 Aeneas Williams, 5-11, 200, 11th year --Will be matched against Troy Brown in Super Bowl XXXVI. One of the NFL's premier cornerbacks, Williams signed with the Rams as a free agent in the off-season after spending his first 10 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Made an impact throughout the season but has left his mark in the playoffs. In the divisional round, he became the first player in league history to return two interceptions for a touchdown in a postseason game. Sealed the Rams' trip to Super Bowl XXXVI in the NFC championship game with an interception with under two minutes remaining. Has an interception in a playoff-record four straight games and six in four career postseason contests. Named to his seventh Pro Bowl this season after collecting four interceptions. In 176 career regular season games, has 50 interceptions. Born in New Orleans and captured all-district honors at Fortier High School.

RCB -- 21 Dexter McCleon, 5-10, 195, 5th year --- Matches up against David Patten in Super Bowl XXXVI. A three-year starter, McCleon finished tied with Williams for second on the club with four interceptions. An effective blizter of the corner.

Collected seven tackles in Super Bowl XXXIV against Tennessee.In 2000, finished second in the NFL with nine interceptions. A 1997 second-round pick out of Clemson.

SS -- 31 Adam Archuleta, 5-11, 209, Rookie -- One of the Rams' three first-round picks in the 2001 draft. Played linebacker as a collegian but converted to safety in the professional ranks.

Missed two games this season due concussions and finished with three sacks in 14 games. Despite being a rookie, Archuleta already has drawn comparisons to hard-hitting safety John Lynch

of Tampa Bay.

FS -- 20 Kim Herring, 6-0, 200, 5th year -- A starter on the stingiest defense in NFL history last season as a member of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Signed a five-year contract as a free agent with the Rams on March 22, 2001.

Started all 16 games in his first season with the Rams and had one interception. Brought another veteran presence to the Rams'overhauled defense. Had an interception in the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV victory over the New York Giants.

NB -- 32 Dre' Bly, 5-9, 185, 3rd year -- The most athletic player in the Rams' secondary. Led the club with six interceptions while playing mostly in nickel situations. Played a key role in helping the Rams reach the Super Bowl in the 1999 season when he had an interception in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game against Tampa Bay that led to the game-winning drive. Had one tackle in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Specialists

K -- 14 Jeff Wilkins, 6-2, 205, 8th year -- In his eighth NFL season, enjoyed a breakout year in which he led the NFL with 127 points. Converted all 58 extra points and made 23-of-29 field goals. Made a 26-yard field goal 7:56 into overtime in a

season-opening victory over Philadelphia. Holds club record for most extra points (64, 1999) made in a season. Kicked three field goals in the Rams' 23-16 victory over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV.

P -- 4 John Baker, 6-2, 223, 2nd year -- In his second season as the club's punter, Baker finished eighth in the NFC in punting, averaging 42.1 yards per punt. An undrafted free agent out of North Texas in 2000, beat out Keith Miller for the Rams' punting job in his rookie season.

KR -- 24 Trung Candidate, 5-11, 192, 2nd year -- Despite a bevy of talent on offense, the Rams selected Canidate with the final pick in the first round of the 2000 draft. Played in only three games in his rookie season due to a wrist injury. But has emerged this season, and performed effectively as both a kick returner and backup to running back Marshall Faulk. Averaged 20.8 yards per kickoff return. Rushed for 441 yards and five touchdowns. In the best effort of his career, Candidate rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-14 victory over the New York Jets on Oct.21.

PR -- 32 Dre' Bly, 5-9, 185, 3rd year -- Took over as the club's punt returner midway through the season after fumbling problems by Az-Zahir Hakim. Averaged 9.2 yards per return, including a long of 32 yards.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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