Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rams Notebook: Motivated Rookie Earns a Spot with the Team's Best Unit

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rams Notebook: Motivated Rookie Earns a Spot with the Team's Best Unit

Article excerpt

Rams defensive end Gerald Rivers was a junior at the University of Mississippi when the most influential person in his life, his grandmother, passed away.

Coping with the loss, Rivers lost his focus and ended up academically ineligible. He tried to recover, but not quickly enough to salvage his senior season at Ole Miss.

"I did everything the counselors told me I needed to do and they made sure all the paperwork was in place," the 23-year-old recalled earlier this week. "I felt like I'd let my grandmother down and I was determined to make it right."

But about three weeks into last season, the NCAA denied Rivers' appeal.

"I feel like God puts you through tests in life and this one definitely helped make me a better man," he said. "Instead of getting down again, I took it as a challenge to go back to school and finish what I started. I got my degree and I went back to train in Georgia; I just kept grinding, working to get better.

"Not being able to play football, re-lit my passion for the game."

Rivers, an athletic end who stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 258 pounds, flashed that passion throughout training camp and the preseason, finishing as one of the team's statistical leaders with 10 tackles and a sack.

"Making plays is what the NFL is all about," he said.

Veteran defensive end Chris Long said Rivers made an excellent early impression.

"Preseason is a big deal for everybody to get their reps and get better, but it's especially important for rookies to go out and make an impact," Long said. "He made people take notice of him."

Rivers has fit in quickly with the Rams' strongest units.

"To stick with this group, as deep as we are, it's a testament to his talent and also to the way he approaches practice," Long said. "He needs to work to keep getting better in all areas of his game, like any rookie, but to make this group is pretty impressive.

"We're a tight-knit group you can't be sensitive and be part of our D-line but he's worked hard to fit in. …

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