Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Brockers Ready for Challenge; Notebook; Speed of the NFL Game Impresses Top Draft Pick, Who Aspires to Be an Every-Down Player; RAMS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Brockers Ready for Challenge; Notebook; Speed of the NFL Game Impresses Top Draft Pick, Who Aspires to Be an Every-Down Player; RAMS

Article excerpt

Football talent evaluators probably have several indicators to predict what kind of career an NFL rookie might have. If one of them is "length of beard," Michael Brockers should play long and prosper.

Like everything else about the Rams' No. 1 draft pick, the first selection of coach Jeff Fisher's new regime, Brockers' beard is formidable. We're talking "Old Testament" worthy.

"It was longer than this," Brockers said. "I've had it for a while. It was longer than this at LSU. I just had it trimmed."

Keeping his chin groomed is just one of many challenges Brockers faces in these inaugural days of his professional life. At 6 feet 5, 322 pounds and 21 years of age, Brockers represents a microcosm of Fisher's first team in St. Louis. That is, he is young, inexperienced and promising.

Three years ago the defensive tackle was competing with high school players, which helps explain why he was still available at the 14th overall pick in the draft.

He is a developmental talent, a player with enormous physical attributes to go with the enormous beard. The new world he exploring in Earth City is dramatically different from what he knows.

"It's a lot more fast, just really fast-paced, game situations, going through the defense, reps after reps after reps," Brockers said. "But football is football. If you love the game, you just come out and have fun."

The attention, as well as the tempo, is enhanced. The examinations and expectations that accompany the label of "No. 1 pick" can be as oversized as Brockers' wardrobe. But it quickly becomes evident in conversation that the Houston native is mature for his age and enjoying the challenge.

"There's a little pressure, but I just come every day to work and try to get better," Brockers said after practice Monday. "Day 1 was like ... just getting back into it, hitting the sled for the first time in a while ... it was rough.

"But Day 2 was a lot smoother, getting a playbook overnight, studying the plays. ... I mean Day 2 was a lot better than Day 1. And that's what you want, each day to be better."

The initial training camp session Sunday even was unsettling for a large crowd in attendance. Late during scrimmage work, Brockers came out of a play hobbling. A little while later, he came out of the action altogether. On the sidelines, he took off a shoe and his ankle got more attention.

But not to worry, Brockers was back at work Monday, taking a regular shift.

"My ankle got stepped on a little bit (on Sunday)," Brockers said. "I had to fix that up all day, just been rehabbing it. And it feels really good today."

Nothing might feel better for the Rams than for Big Brockers to make big progress.

"He's picking everything up mentally," Fisher said. "He came (to training camp) in really good shape. His strength is good. ... It's just a matter of, wait until we get the pads on, get him in some preseason games and see how he can compete against starting offensive lines. …

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