Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Louis' Gruttadauria Paints Bright Picture Center's Journey to NFL Pinnacle Mirrors Team's

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Louis' Gruttadauria Paints Bright Picture Center's Journey to NFL Pinnacle Mirrors Team's

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Mike Gruttadauria started work back in training camp on a mural depicting the members of the St. Louis offensive line. Much like the team that will appear in Sunday's Super Bowl XXXIV against Tennessee, the drawing has been a work in progress.

An hour here, an hour there, Gruttadauria has slowly transformed the white piece of paper into a colorful work of art. A player here, a player there, the Rams have done the same thing with their football team.

"I agree we came out of nowhere, but this team has been long in the making," the starting center said. "The addition of [guard] Adam Timmerman and [running back] Marshall Faulk has helped us finish the equation. I don't think they're the only reason we're here. A lot of guys made it possible."

Gruttadauria, like so many of his teammates, is one of the least-likely candidates to qualify for a Super Bowl appearance.

In the last five years, quarterback Kurt Warner's resume includes stints in NFL Europe, the Arena Football League and in a grocery store as a clerk. Safety Devon Bush played four unassuming seasons in Atlanta before being cut in the offseason.

Wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim is only 5-foot-10, 178 pounds, and receiver Tony Horne is smaller at 5-9, 173. Timmerman, with a degree in agriculture from South Dakota State, figured his afternoons would be spent plowing corn and soybeans, not making blocks in the National Football League.

The Rams center only played one year of high school football, then he only got one football offer from colleges. His nomadic family hadn't put down their roots until he reached eighth grade. By then, his father had worked in real estate in South Florida and in a tire recycling company in California.

"I've lived in so many different areas, I never got involved in organized sports," he said. "I never played Little League. We moved around so much, I never made friends. My brother [Mark] was my best friend. We played football in the streets. Our Super Bowl was one [housing] development against another. …

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