Former USC receiver Steven Mitchell is happy he was able to catch on with Rams


Right place, wrong time.

That was the situation this week for former USC receiver Steven Mitchell, who made it to the Rams’ facility for his physical exam but arrived two hours early.

“I was just ready to get here, just anxious, just ready to get it going,” Mitchell said Tuesday during a break from a rookie orientation of sorts.

The team’s draft picks and rookie free agents are getting their first taste of the NFL with their introduction to the offseason program. They worked out with veteran players Monday and Tuesday morning, before rookie school in the afternoon.

Mitchell, who suffered severe injuries to both knees during college but had 41 catches for 644 yards and four touchdowns as a senior, was not selected in the draft but had multiple inquiries from teams afterward.


“Some of the offers were from Houston, the Chargers, and I know the Rams really liked me,” he said. “[The Rams] were the first ones who called, and my agent was in contact with them since draft day. I had a good feeling where I was going to wind up.”

He said he felt comfortable signing with the Rams and, were he to make it that far, would love to play at the Coliseum again, where he spent all four years with the Trojans.

“Just being at home,” he said. “I know they had a hell of a season last year. The receivers coach, [Eric Yarber], he recruited me out of high school.

“Obviously, it’s a football player’s dream to get drafted, and I was hoping my name was called. But I think that just added a chip on my shoulder, and will make me play even harder. This is a dream come true.”

Unfamiliar turf

Codey McElroy didn’t play football in high school, and he played just one season at a small Division II school, but he’s hoping to do enough to impress the Rams.

The 6-foot-6 tight end from Southeastern Oklahoma State has proven he knows how to rapidly change directions. He played baseball for three schools, then in the Atlanta Braves farm system. He coached college baseball. He walked on the Oklahoma State basketball team. After graduating, he returned to school to become a safety engineer at an oil company, only joining the football team on a lark. He never stayed anywhere for more than a year.


McElroy, 25, faces long odds of making it beyond training camp, especially in a sport that’s so new to him. But he’s having fun for now.

“Yesterday and today, it has been a ton of information but they’ve done a great job of explaining things to me,” he said of the Rams. “They’re teaching me the verbiage and the ins and outs of the game, but I do think it’s going to take some time. I’m picking it up fairly quick, but it is a ton of information.”

His situation brings to mind that of former Australian rugby player Jarryd Hayne, who in 2015 briefly made the San Francisco 49ers as a running back and returner. He lasted eight games.

“You can go into the NFL and understand a little bit of what you’re going to learn, but until you sit down in a room and see the playbook, the defensive scheme, it just blows your mind,” Hayne recently told [National Rugby League]. “I went in there with some idea, like ‘Oh yeah, I kind of get it’ but not only do you have to learn all the schemes, but you also change them every week. And it’s not one of those things where you get time to learn and change them; it’s like ‘BOOM we’re doing this now’ and you’re expected to know it.”

Familiar foes

Rams draft picks Joseph Noteboom (third round) and Ogbonnia “Obo” Okoronkwo (fifth) have a common goal now, and that certainly wasn’t the case two years ago in a wild shootout between Texas Christian and Oklahoma.


Noteboom played left tackle for the Horned Frogs, and Okoronkwo was a hard-charging outside linebacker for the Sooners.

“He was definitely the best pass rusher I’ve ever faced,” Noteboom recalled Tuesday.

Okoronkwo was a handful in that 52-46 victory in which Oklahoma survived a 22-point flurry by TCU in the fourth quarter. He had two sacks in the final period — one via an intentional-grounding penalty — and forced a false start.

Although he now praises Noteboom — “He has really quick feet, moves really well for a big guy” — Okoronkwo can sum up that game in a few words.

“I sacked [TCU quarterback] Kenny Hill and we won the game and went home,” he said. “[Noteboom’s] story might be a little sadder.”


Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer