ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — The Rams had some special visitors for their final official day of training camp on Wednesday as the football teams from McCluer and McCluer North high schools were able to practice in the team’s indoor facility and also watch the Rams practice.
“It means a lot to us and you can all imagine what they are going through, in addition to everybody in Ferguson,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “It’s just very, very sad and we hope that things get worked out as soon as they possibly can. But this is different. These are football players and football players. I went over to talk to them before practice and they heard nothing I said because they were looking behind me watching the players walk by. This will be something that I hope they’ll always remember.”
The Ferguson-Florissant School District has been closed because of the unrest in Ferguson and the football teams at the three high schools — McCluer, McCluer North and McCluer South-Berkeley, which was unable to visit Rams Park on Wednesday — have been unable to practice at their normal school facilities.
McCluer North coach Courtland Griffin said Wednesday that his team has been practicing at an area park that has provided an unusual adversary for his players. Crickets.
“We’ve been in a field of crickets every night, near a swamp, but we’re still practicing,” Griffin said. “I don’t know where the crickets come from. I don’t know if this is a new bed of birthing crickets, but they’ve been around. We’ve landed on them, jumped off of them, they’ve jumped off of us. Whatever.”
So Griffin and his players were able to enjoy the more friendly confines of the Rams’ indoor practice facility on Wednesday afternoon and then watch the last few portions of practice.
At one point Fisher invited the McCluer North players to the edge of the practice field to simulate crowd noise in an opponents’ stadium.
“They participated in practice in the one drill simulating crowd noise and we had a bunch of mistakes,” Fisher said. “I wouldn’t say they were close to Seattle but they were close.”
Griffin was just happy to have a place for his kids to practice, with the Stars’ first game coming up on Friday night at Jefferson City.
“It’s awesome,” Griffin said. “It’s a great feeling. It’s great team morale for my guys and it’s great for the district. For them to invite us out here and let us get a chance to practice in their facility on a busy day like they have out here, that’s awesome. I greatly appreciate it. We’re grateful for it.”
The Rams players appreciated having the high school players at practice, also.
In addition to helping out the Rams with some simulated crowd noise, the McCluer North players were able to give the Rams some extra motivation during the steamy afternoon practice.
“It was great,” Rams left tackle Jake Long said. “Definitely our thoughts and prayers go out to that community. To have them out here and they were all fired up and they got us a little fired up, so it was cool to have them out here.”
“It was awesome to see the energy that they brought out here, to be honest,” Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “It’s good stuff. I’m glad that we were able to help in some way, to take their minds off what’s going on in that area.”
Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers has followed what has unfolded in the Ferguson area these last two weeks.
“It was great to see those guys out here just focusing on football and all the stuff that’s happening over there it’ll get you riled up and get your mind off of what’s important,” Brockers said. “These guys showed their mind is on one thing, it’s playing football and winning games. I think that’s the most important thing, keeping kids out of trouble. Because I know a lot of guys in this league come from pretty much the same neighborhoods and we needed football to keep us out of trouble as well. So it’s good to see those guys out here fired up and getting ready for their game.”
Griffin said the Rams’ invitation to practice showed him the strength of the St. Louis community.
“When everyone is backing each other, there’s possibility for everything,” he said. “You need more people like this, more organizations like these guys. There’s just strength in community and when people come together, everything is possible. They didn’t have to ask us to come out here. They didn’t have to reach out for us to come out here. They made it available for us. We didn’t have to call and say, can we use your facility. They called us and reached out. That’s awesome. That’s big. So the strength in community, it’s a major role in what we’re doing right now. It’ll get us ready for our game this Friday night.”
Nate Latsch has been covering sports in St. Louis for more than a decade, working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports, STLhighschoolsports.com, Scout.com and other newspapers and websites. You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more of his Rams coverage at GridironGateway.com.