He makes it in Hollywood, no question, as the burly, shaved head, tattooed prisoner who plays the heavy opposite Clint Eastwood.
Keith Loneker, however, has no chance of making it with the Rams. But who’s going to tell him to leave?
Don’t let the three earrings fool you. On a 6-foot-3, 346-pound man, they do not soften scary first impressions.
“If I didn’t have any earrings, didn’t have a tattoo and had a full head of hair,” Loneker said, “people would still look at me like I had something wrong with me.”
He’s a sight, all right, as big as Rhode Island and packed sloppily into a uniform, just like the old days when a drooping belly was a badge of honor.
But he was not drafted, and the odds are about to overwhelm him. He is third on the depth chart at right guard and will plunge further when the veterans begin practicing Friday.
“I guess I’m not that good of a football player now, so that’s why I wasn’t drafted,” Loneker said. “But I feel I can play football, and we’ll see what happens. I hope I make it, I really do, because I need the money.”
The free-agent dream: “This is Plan A and Plan B for me,” Loneker said. “I’ve got nothing else to fall back on.
“I’ve got a wife, a baby on the way and I’m still a year away from getting my degree. We had no place to stay in Lawrence (Kan.) this summer, and after we loaned our car to a friend, they totaled it. This is it, I have to make it, I’ve got responsibilities.”
The free-agent dream: If only he can catch the coach’s eye. In college, he had the Kansas Jayhawk tattooed on his lower left leg. He knows how to get attention.
“People used to say, ‘Look, there’s the guy with the tattoo,’ ” Loneker said. “Let’s see what he can do.”
At the NFL combine workouts, he finished his drills and then exited the field by doing a cartwheel. A 346-pound man doing a cartwheel will not go unnoticed.
“You get attention, you put yourself on the line, and you have to perform,” Loneker said. “It’s motivation.”
He was going to show the Rams, wow them at Cal State Fullerton this month, but then he was unable to dedicate himself to getting ready for training camp this summer.
“The day before camp began, I almost decided not to come,” he said. “I thought about going back to school, making some money. . . . My wife said to do what I thought best, and my mom said the same thing. My dad told me to get my butt into camp.
“It was just a long and rough summer with getting married, the baby, the car, money. I’m just not in the shape I’d like to be in. We had a treadmill test to do when we got here, and I don’t even think there are any treadmills in Lawrence, Kansas.”
The free-agent dream has begun to crumble.
“Hey, there’s nobody to blame but me,” Loneker said. “If I couldn’t get things done in Kansas, I shouldn’t have been there. As I look at it now, I believe my chances of making the team are as good as I make them.
“I’m as big as anybody here. I can run, I got some quickness, I know the plays, and if I can’t make the team, it’s Keith Loneker’s fault.”
If only that were true. But the Rams have a personnel overload at guard. They have returning veterans, they traded for a right guard and added another guard in the draft. There is no room for a rookie free agent.
“I had this guy back home who thought I wasn’t going to make it at KU, too, and he told everybody,” Loneker said. “He said I’d be back, and then he said I couldn’t do this and that.
“I carry this picture of this guy in my head all the time. When it gets too tough and too hard, I think about that guy, and I work harder.
“Listen, I’m getting the chills right now talking about it. I’m going to make it. I got my chance, and I’m going to make it.”
Who is going to tell him differently?