Late one evening back in 1985, Chris Fellowes’ brother in law asked if he’d tape a show on Channel 4. It was the weekly NFL highlights show and very quickly a 13 year old Chris was transfixed.
One of the teams being profiled was the LA Rams who had played the Green Bay Packers and one particular player, Ron Brown had returned two KO’s for scores as well as a deep pass for a score. In that moment, the Californian sunshine and the blue and gold uniforms of the Rams had secured another fan.
For Chris it wasn’t just the start of following the Rams but at that moment he decided that a career route into American Football was also to be a goal. While he didn’t make it as far as the NFL, he certainly started to carve out a way into American Football as he felt a need to be involved in the sport however he could.
“I was so keen to be involved in the game and was determined at 13 I could make it to the NFL. I joined the East Kilbride Pirates which had been going a few years at that stage and they had a youth set up which started to produce some great players. We played full contact, although generally without pads or kit as little was available, training hard and regularly but with not many teams to play. I was the starting QB, also working as doing Stats for the senior team and followed them around. At 18 I joined the senior side and played WR for them until I moved abroad 4 seasons later. Getting Offensive player of the year in my last season was a real highlight.”
Chris also played WR for Glasgow University Tigers making the College Bowl twice and the Northern Conference Final each year. Chris was also able to attend tryouts for the Scottish Claymores when they were established.
“It was incredible being around that initial set up, understanding all the drills and what was expected of players. Initially I was surprised that I didn’t get picked, thinking that I was going to be the eventual starter for Rams at some stage, but in hindsight I know I wasn’t at the correct standard. But it was great to see others such as Scott Couper going on to greater things.”
Chris’ sporting career moved into being with the Strathclyde Sheriffs who became the Senior Glasgow Tigers and playing at any position required on either side of the ball. He’s also been a positional coach with a couple of teams, refereed, taken stats or helped as side-line crew. His personal involvement has been pretty immense!
But back to the Rams and how Chris’ following of them, from burning the midnight oil tuning into the US Armed Forces Radio broadcasts late on a Sunday night, trying to explain his tiredness to his mum the next day while still at school, has taken him to the fan he is today. The forthcoming game at Twickenham will be the fourth time the Rams have come to the UK, the third time as a regular season game.
“Many people don’t remember the first time the Rams came here but it was a pre-season game back in 1987 when they took on the Broncos. The Broncos had lost the Super Bowl to the Giants that year and we pipped them at Wembley in a thriller. I was at home for that game and missed the first regular season game against the Patriots as I was abroad. Mind you a 7-45 scoreline in the favour of the opposition isn’t too much of a blow to miss!”
While the Rams had a late loss at Twickenham last year, for Chris it was still a great experience for him, welcoming the team back to the UK, particularly after they had not long since made the return to LA. Secretly he thinks they came back to keep an eye on him at the Glasgow Tigers Old Boys game just in case Tavon Austin picked up an injury and he was needed to step in, but that aside it was good to have them back, even better to have them back again.
But for the Rams to have made the journey back to be ensconced in LA again, that is even bigger and something that takes him back to the team that he first supported.
“For me, the LA side was part of that early attraction so it didn’t seem right for me with the move to St Louis. Something was always missing, I didn’t quite know what and it only became apparent when we moved back to LA. It’s a reconnection and fuelled my passion for them even more.”
Chris doesn’t just think the move back to LA is a turning point for the fans but could be one for the players too. Being in Los Angeles, California is a different lifestyle which could attract players but also additional media scrutiny on the team may the Rams develop.
“I don’t think had we been in LA at the time, Jeff Fisher would have lasted as long as I don’t think he’d have been tolerated there as much as he was in St Louis. I can really see better trades and better deals being struck to improve the playing staff.”
There will also be a stunning new stadium to look forward which is going to be jaw dropping (even if Chris is disappointed they have to share it with the Chargers!) but is looking to get a trip to the States to see the Coliseum for old time sake. It will be his first opportunity to see the team in the States so it could work well.
“For me it’s all about the product on the field, so fingers and toes crossed that the team can match the surroundings – the promise of playing in such an arena may help pull players towards signing contracts.”
Whatever their location might be, one thing is for sure the Rams fans in the UK don’t feel that they have a great following in comparison to other NFL teams. Why does Chris think that is the case?
“As the sport grew in the UK, there were particular teams that you could buy their stuff in the shops over here – Dolphins, 49ers, Bears, Broncos for instance so it helped push their case a little further. You couldn’t get Rams stuff so I’m sure that had a factor on fan numbers. Also in LA there was the battle for space between the Raiders and the Rams and the Raiders always had a cooler, funkier image. They were tough, the rule breakers and the choice of a lot of music stars at that time. Many of my friends had Raiders caps, they probably couldn’t name a player, but I couldn’t get a Rams cap for sale!”
They may not have a huge following but those that are part of the fan base in the UK are quite a close knit group. Since the Twickenham game last year and the rise of social media it has become easier to be connected with like minded people across the UK and Europe.
“Our ‘Ramily’ is certainly growing and the team making a commitment to overseas games is helping that. We’ve created a fantasy football league this year just made up of Rams fans and we’ve got pre and post match gatherings for 2017 planned. So we’re not huge but we are growing and I hope the ‘Ramily’ will grow further after the Cardinals game.”
Looking ahead to that game, there will be people who may recall the game of last season but some who may be watching the Rams for the very first time. Aside from some of the obvious choices like Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, who else should we be on the lookout for?
“We could get a great O line going this year with Andrew Whitworth propping up the blindside, allowing Todd Gurley running room, Goff time to pass, Cooper Kupp catching some balls allowing the best defensive player in the league, Aaron Donald to cut loose with Connor Barwin who is our new recruit from Philadelphia. Keen an eye on those guys if you’re watching the game.”
The Rams haven’t made the playoffs since 2004 and their last Super Bowl victory was in the last century. It’s been a long time of waiting for many of the fans to see the glory days again. Many people would say, that the Rams haven’t always done the best in the draft, especially when they had first round picks, but Chris feels that there is still a chance that this year, could be that year.
“Well why not; after all we’re talking about a team with pro athletes so anything is possible, as it is for other teams. But it’s crucial to stay competitive early on – players don’t tend to put it all on the line when it’s 0-30 in the 2nd quarter and they are 0-6 on the season. If the team can gel quickly thru camp, get out the blocks with some wins and stay healthy who knows – we have the talent so why can’t this be our year?”
Certainly the Rams have had their share of talent over the years as well as today and for that reason Chris finds it too easy to select some of his all time favourite players. Unsurprisingly Ron Brown is there, both from him kickoffs and being an Olympic relay gold medallist but who else makes his list?
“Jim Everett was a great QB but he showed a side on the Jim Rome TV show which you never saw on the field and I liked him even more. Willie ‘Flipper’ Anderson set NFL Receiving yards record for a single game with 336yds. I listened to it late at night on the radio and it led me to wear the #83 shirt. And of course Mike Jones, for the game saving tackle ‘One Yard Short’ which led to the Super Bowl victory. Thanks again Mike!”
So as we fast approach October 22nd what is it that defines the Rams and why should anyone follow them? They have a lot of history – did you know for instance they were the first team to have logos on their helmets as their RB in the 1940s Fred Gherke designed and painted them on to boost morale in the team or that Kenny Washington was the first African American to sign with an NFL team in the post war era and he played for the Rams? But what else in Chris’ opinion singles them out.
“We have the best uniform without a doubt. Those glorious Blue and Gold throwback jerseys make up for a losing season and I think we’re reverting back to them with the new stadium.
But you shouldn’t just follow success, the Seahawks and Patriots have a lot of new fans since they tasted success, but the Rams have a rich and colourful history and we’re on the way back up, so join us now and be a part of the re-birth. If you’ve experienced the lows you can enjoy the highs so much more.”
What more could you ask for? Time to find yourself a new ‘Ramily’?