Advertisement

Former SDSU Star Got a Fast Start, Made Rams in ’88

Times Staff Writer

Some questioned why the Rams opened rookie camp a week sooner than the rest of the league with only one of their 14 draft choices signed, forcing some second-year veterans to report a few days early just so the team had enough players to run routine practice drills with faceless free agents.

What’s the use? Why not save a week’s worth of operating costs and use the money, say, to sign some draft picks?

Coach John Robinson has a quick answer, though he can’t spit out Brett Faryniarz’s name fast enough. You try it.

“All you have to do is realize, as I told these guys, that Brett Faryniarz was in this group last year,” he said. “Nobody knew how to spell his name. I still don’t.”

Advertisement

Faryniarz (pronounced Fair-i-nez) was a free-agent outside linebacker from San Diego State who ended up making the 45-man roster, a longshot comparable to Orlando winning the NBA title next season.

With all the time and money pumped into scouting combines and draft research these days, talented players rarely fall through the cracks.

But Faryniarz did. And if not for that first week of rookie camp, before attentions were turned to high-priced draft choices and veterans, Faryniarz figures he’d be in the real world today, working some 9-to-5 shift.

The first week of camp is a free agent’s only real chance to make a name. Even if it’s a funny-sounding one.

Advertisement

“It may have been an attention getter to some extent, a name like that,” Faryniarz said. “They refer to you as that guy over there with the weird name.”

No one wants to be John Doe when there’s a football team to be made.

So what’s it like to be a new free agent in town, a player who never received a signing bonus and was overlooked through 12 rounds of drafting scrutiny?

“Very lonely,” Faryniarz said. “The day I flew in was the day I met my first person on the team. You got all the young veterans, they know each other. The rookies (draft choices) know each other from (mini) camp. All of a sudden you’re here, and everyone’s talking to everybody. And I don’t know anybody.”

Advertisement

He remembers being issued uniform No. 63b, not even a linebacker’s number. And when exactly did they start using the alphabet on jerseys?

“That wasn’t fun, but that’s part of being a free agent, I guess,” he said.

Faryniarz knew he needed to make some noise in a hurry. Getting pushed around in practice was a one-way ticket out of camp. Faryniarz made sure he got involved in a few scrapes, just to raise some eyebrows. Maybe he’d get lucky and even get yelled at.

“I was thinking, whatever I do, I’m not going to let people push me around,” he recalled.

Advertisement

Slowly, he climbed the depth-chart ladder: 10th string, ninth string, eighth string, seventh string. . . .

Luckily, Faryniarz, a converted defensive end and pass-rush specialist, arrived at a time when the Rams were switching defenses to a five-linebacker scheme and were in need of outside pass rushers.

If Faryniarz was anything, he was quick. He made a few big plays in a scrimmage against Dallas. Another big break came when the Rams decided to release Woody Vann, a special teams star who hadn’t progressed much as an outside linebacker.

Faryniarz somehow survived the summer, helping himself with sacks in exhibitions games against Denver and Houston. As the countdown continued toward the final cut, Faryniarz was confident he had impressed but, as he said, “Once the coaches get in that room, anything can happen.”

Advertisement

On Monday, Aug. 29, 1988, Faryniarz nervously awaited word on the final roster decision. He was waiting at the Quality Inn in Anaheim with free agent David Diaz-Infante. Faryniarz was sure both had made the team. Then Diaz-Infante got a phone call telling him he’d been released.

“I was on my way out, walking down the hallway and I hear my phone ring,” Faryniarz said. “Right when I picked it up, they hung up. So I put it down and I went to the elevator, and there were about six guys in there with their heads down, and I’m acting normal, thinking maybe I made the team. And they said, ‘Yeah, we got the phone call.’ And I go, ‘Oh, bleep.’ ”

Faryniarz went to practice anyway, figuring he wasn’t leaving until someone ordered him to.

When he arrived at the front gate, he saw Ray San Jose, the administrative assistant in charge of giving players the bad news.

Advertisement

“He’s at the front gate and comes walking up,” Faryniarz said. “And I’m looking at him. Now, he’s either going to say, ‘OK, Faryniarz, get your playbook,’ or he’s going to say, ‘Hey, how ya’ doing.’ And he said ‘How ya’ doing’ and I said, ‘Just great!’ ”

Faryniarz walked through the gates into paradise.

“It was like walking down that aisle, where you go from the Russian border to the American Embassy,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Are they going to shoot me or what?’ ”

They didn’t shoot. Instead, they gave Faryniarz No. 51. Dick Butkus’ number.

Advertisement

“It meant a lot because I wasn’t just kept around because I was paid such a high bonus or anything,” he said. “They had no strings. I could have been terminated as fast as they got me. It meant a lot to me that they released some people that they put some money into to keep me.”

He played mostly special teams during the season, but managed one game-saving sack to preserve the Rams’ 12-10 victory over the Saints in New Orleans.

On third and three at the Rams’ 10, Faryniarz sacked quarterback Bobby Hebert for a six-yard loss with 4:01 left, forcing the Saints to settle for a field goal, which left them two points short of victory.

“That was the highlight play in my life,” he said. “I had something like that in college, but this is the pros. Everyone sees it.”

Advertisement

Faryniarz is glad he never gave up on himself, despite the opinions of well-paid draft analysts.

“I had my doubts as a free agent,” he said. “I thought I should have been drafted, but once they pass you by, you think, ‘Well, maybe they do know what they’re doing when they draft, so you got to respect that.’ But there are always a few you overlook.”

The few and the proud.

“I think I was missed because I was only about 215 pounds the spring before my senior year,” he said. “That’s when the scouts came out and timed us and weighed us, so they figured I was underweight as a pre-combine list or a future draft choice.”

Advertisement

That’s old news. The important thing was that Faryniarz fought hard and made the team. Maybe next year the coach will get his name right.

“Robinson still calls me FARINYERZ,” he said, not complaining a bit.


Advertisement
Advertisement