Rams and Titans: Who are these guys?

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Orlando Pace blocked for Eddie George at Ohio State. George won the 1995 Heisman Trophy and Pace became the No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NFL draft.

When they take the field in Sunday's Super Bowl -- Pace for St. Louis and George for Tennessee -- most viewers will know them.

But not too many of their teammates.

These two teams have spent most of the past decade out of the national spotlight and off national television. That means even their best players have spent their professional careers in relative obscurity.

The group includes D'Marco Farr, who is in his seventh year as a defensive tackle with the Rams after playing at Washington with the likes of Steve Emtman, another No. 1 overall pick; Mark Brunell; and Billy Joe Hobert.

"Dick Vermeil came up to do one of our games for ABC," recalls Farr, who is going to his first Pro Bowl this season after years as a standout on losing teams. "He described me as a very good college player who would have trouble making it in the NFL. A few years later, he became our coach. My first thought was "uh oh.'

The Rams have a lot of 'uh oh' guys -- undrafted free agents -- the most important of whom is Kurt Warner, the quarterback who came out of the Arena League and NFL Europe to become the NFL's MVP and the only quarterback other than Dan Marino to throw more than 40 touchdown passes in a season.

So while St. Louis will start Pace, Kevin Carter, Grant Wistrom, Todd Lyght and Marshall Faulk, all first-round picks, they also have undrafted free agents like Warner, Farr and middle linebacker London Fletcher.

Fletcher played in his hometown of Cleveland for Division III John Carroll, the alma mater of Don Shula. Two years ago he was working as a personnel executive while waiting for the NFL draft.

Draft day came and no one called. But Charlie Armey, the Rams' personnel director, knew Fletcher's talent and was ready to grab him as a free agent. His only worry was that the Colts also knew his talent because the son of team president Bill Polian had been Fletcher's college teammate.

Fletcher indeed went to St. Louis, where he made sure he corrected his height in the media guide from 6 feet to the more accurate 5-10 -- he was a fan of Sam Mills, the 5-9 New Orleans and Carolina linebacker known as "the field mouse." He was a special teamer last season and won the starting job this season from another "Who's he?" -- Charlie Clemons a former Canadian Leaguer who has become a valuable third-down linebacker.

"Coming to the St. Louis Rams, I'm thinking, 'They haven't won any games,' " Fletcher recalled. "I certainly wasn't thinking Super Bowl."

Neither was Farr.

"I spent seven years on losing teams so I resent the rookies who come in and get here in their first year without knowing how hard it is to get here," he says, a slight twinkle in his eye.

The Titans -- the former Houston Oilers -- have a more conventional lineup.

But it says a lot about them when their best known player is an offensive lineman, 17-year veteran Bruce Matthews, a 12-time Pro Bowler who has played in a record 264 games. At 38, he's playing for head coach Jeff Fisher, a former teammate at Southern California and offensive line coach Mike Munchak, his best friend teammate for more than a decade.

"The best way to describe it is to say if I hadn't made it here, I'd still be able to say 'I had a pretty good career, I had a good run,' " Matthews says. "I had resigned myself to the notion that if I didn't make it, no big deal. Now that I'm here, I realize what a great loss it would have been not to make it here."

Despite playing in three cities and four stadiums in four years, the Titans still have a solid nucleus of former Houston Oilers.

They include Matthews, quarterback Steve McNair and George, plus the two safeties, Blaine Bishop and Marcus Robertson, who have played a total of 16 years. Robertson, who broke his leg in the AFC title game, will be replaced Sunday by Anthony Dorsett, son of Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett. The Dorsetts are the first father and son to start in a Super Bowl.

But the prototype Titan is Frank Wycheck, the tight end.

Wycheck is one of those players known to football people but not to the public -- he's led the Titans in receiving the past four years and will be going to his second straight Pro Bowl after Sunday's game.

That comes, however, after a rocky start. He played both tight end and fullback in Washington, who took him in the sixth round of the 1993 draft and released him in training camp in 1995.

And he only became nationally known because he threw the lateral to Kevin Dyson on the game-winning play in the wild, wild-card playoff win against Buffalo.

"You have two teams saying they don't get the respect they deserve," says Tennessee offensive tackle Jon Runyan.

"Look where we're at. It's hard to argue with that."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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