Rams : A Local (Bad) Boy Makes Good : Ogden's Rowdy Shawn Miller Settles Down With Rams

Times Staff Writer

On a hot Wednesday afternoon, Shawn Miller was doing just what a lot of folks in Ogden, Utah, figured he would end up doing.

Not much.

A spit here, a yawn there, his 6-foot 4-inch, 255-pound frame (complete with beard and pony tail) operating on snooze control.

The law-abiding citizens of Ogden didn't expect much more from the town bad boy, the leader of the high school pack dubbed The Rowdy Yates.

"Drinking, fighting, I didn't have any regard for anyone or authority," Miller said. "Teachers, principals, police, nobody scared me. I was a hellion."

And now he's a starting defensive end for the Rams. Miller lounged around the practice field Wednesday because of a groin pull suffered in Sunday's victory over San Francisco. It doesn't figure to keep him out of Sunday's game against Indianapolis.

So it looks like everything worked out for the big lug. And it seems everyone in Ogden knew it all the time. Yeah, right. Funny how success has a way of making the past the past.

"Delinquent? Oh no. Shawn was just a very energetic boy," said Connie Freestone, a secretary at Weber High School in Ogden. This of the man who, when asked what he aspired to after high school, once responded: "Prison."

Reporters can be such wimps. Just the other day, one had the audacity to ask Freestone if she even knew Miller.

Imagine that. They're practically family. Think about it, does a guy make a ceramic spittoon in art class for just anybody?

"Shawn does have other talents outside of football," Freestone said.

One, for a while, was drinking a case of beer each night as a bouncer at an Ogden bar. He landed there after being cut by the Washington Redskins in 1983. His tryout was doomed by a knee injury he had suffered in his senior season at Utah State.

Looking into that bar mirror one night, Miller finally met someone who scared him. Himself. All of the fussing and fighting had left him. "I was absolutely nowhere," he said. "I was just girth, just a big, fat thing. I started to think about what I had let myself become. I didn't like it."

So he started to lift weights again, and after a year he sent letters out to each of the 28 National Football League teams.

The Rams picked him up in 1984. He appeared in eight of 10 games, playing mostly on special teams. A shoulder injury put him on injured reserve for the rest of the season.

Last season, he appeared in all 16 games, starting three.

This season he has started both games.

"I knew I wasn't through when I was in that bar," he said. "But I knew I would have to change."

And apparently he has.

"He's calmed down quite a bit,' said Dave Brooks, one of Miller's high school coaches.

Miller plays racquetball with Brooks when he's in Ogden, which is any time that he isn't playing football. Seems you can go home again.

"I think a lot of people make allowances for me now because I made it," said Miller, who recently bought a house in Ogden. "They kind of forget about the punk I was. Now I'm a professional football player."

And Miller has made allowances.

"I lay low whenever I'm home," he said.

Perhaps out of habit. But it would be hard for him not to be noticed. How many 6-4 guys wear a pony tail and an earring in Ogden?

"Yeah, Shawn's always been a nonconformist," Brooks said. "He was the only one on the high school team to wear a red bandanna. He used to wear (his hair) in a duck tail then. . . . Now he's sporting an earring. I guess that's no big deal in L.A, but it sure is in Ogden."

Said Miller: "After being here, going home is like going back 20 years in time."

Which Shawn Miller says is quite all right. He's comfortable with his past now, knowing it can't hurt his future.

Ram Notes Quarterback Dieter Brock, scheduled to practice for the first time since a knee injury on Aug. 5, went home to Birmingham, Ala., because of the death of his older brother, Bill. . . . Running back Charles White missed practice because of the death of his grandmother. . . . Running back Eric Dickerson did not practice Wednesday because of sore ribs. Rams Coach John Robinson said Dickerson will probably practice today. . . . Former Cleveland Browns and USC quarterback Paul McDonald had a brief workout session Wednesday, as did former San Diego Charger backup Ed Luther. The session was pretty casual. "We just wanted to make sure we had their phone numbers," Robinson said.

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