David Stead’s love for the LA Rams started back in the mid eighties when he made a conscious decision to not follow the herd and go with a completely different team. The Chicago Bears were the hot favourite at David’s school fielding legends of the game such as Walter Payton, Jim McMahon and William ‘The Fridge’ Perry, but David decided to be a little less fashionable.
“Everyone at school became a Bears fan because they were such a great team then. But I decided to go with the Rams as they had a great running back in Eric Dickerson. Typically they were shut out of the NFC Championship Game by the Bears which was disappointing but I’ve stuck with them ever since.”
That decision paid off in some way as only two years later, long before many of the other fans we’ve profiled over our London Games blog posts, David got to see his beloved Rams live. Twenty years before the International Series’ officially game to London, David got to see a preseason game at the old Wembley Stadium.
“That was such a special experience and my Uncle Nick was kind enough to take me along to watch them play the Denver Broncos. To anyone who thinks we haven’t won in London, we have, we did that day! But I’m hoping we can do the same 30 years after that great game. I’ve been to the other games in London with my wife and I’m hoping that this year, she will get to see them win too.”
David is not just a fan of the game from an NFL perspective but also played when he was younger. He first started with the Bradford Dolphins who as an adult team, in the early stages of Britball, only survived a few seasons, a junior team was formed from the remains. Bradford no longer has a team but if people are interested then there is a man who’s willing to support it too.
“I played a couple of years with the Dolphins Juniors and really enjoyed my time. Tiggy Bell is probably a name a number of UK American Fans will know who was from that era. I played mainly in the defensive end but was a reluctant guard when played there too. Great times, would be great to see a team there again, if people are interested I’d be a part of supporting that.”
David moved on to university in 1991 and like many other players will have been carefully selecting universities on the basis of whether or not they had an American Football team. For David, it was Lancaster that got drafted and he spent many a happy year as a Bomber, even if the side didn’t have huge amounts of success.
“I played outside linebacker by now and was again often roped in as a reluctant guard. I can’t say we were a very good team but we knew how to have a good time and we spent many Sunday nights in the pubs of Lancaster!”
It was through David’s university degree course that the opportunity to see American Football played in the States came alive. As part of his degree in History and Politics he had the opportunity to study for a year at George Washington in DC, University of Illinois or Texas A&M. For any football fan the choice wasn’t too tricky….
“No disrespect to the other two fine institutions but I knew enough about football by now that A&M was the place to go. I fully immersed myself in the Aggie football experience during 1992/93. Obviously I didn’t play – the game is at a different level over there – but I remain a loyal Aggie to this day.”
Watching if not playing the game certainly paid off for David as he recalls one of his favourite moments as a player was on his return to Lancaster when he dropped back in coverage and a pass was tipped at the line –but he managed to haul it in and took it back the other way for the touchdown which won the Bombers the game. .
But to the Rams who will be hoping for a win against the Cardinals and get a W in the NFL season in London for the first time. David freely admits that the Rams don’t have a huge fanbase in the UK, citing the lack of great play over a long period of time and not being one of the more fashionable teams. But those fans you will see at Twickenham you can be sure are very much the hardcore loyal ones. However he’s also realistic about their chances this season and perhaps new fans of American Football may not see the best still this season.
“It’s not going to be a Super Bowl winning year, I just don’t see it myself. I would put as at six or seven wins at best. But it would be good if we could get to December and still feel like we’ve got a shot. I’m pretty sick of us getting to Week 12 and the season is already over and done with.”
The drafts haven’t gone the best for the Rams in the last few years (as David says it’s a wonder Les Snead is even in a job) but there is still plenty of talent for the fans to enjoy and new followers of the game to look out for. Who does David think are the ones to watch in London?
“Aaron Donald in my opinion is the best player in the whole NFL (assuming he ends his holdout), this could be a big year for Todd Gurley – he really needs to bounce back while Alec Ogletree –is all over the field at middle linebacker, I’ll be watching for Josh Reynolds too as he’s an Aggie. And in Sean McVay we have the youngest head coach in the league too.”
For David there still remains an ambition to watch his beloved Rams play in the US. While he has been fortunate to see them four times in the UK (and we know that’s more than many fans!) the ultimate is still to come. Of course, from his College days he’s seen some pretty great football games.
“Thanks to spending time in the US during my college days I’ve seen a fair bit of the country and some high profile College games. At Kyle Field where the Texas A&M Aggies play you can see around 80,000 people watch a game and that is quite an atmosphere! During my vacation I actually spent a few days over in St Louis, just a few years before it became the home of the Rams, but I haven’t as yet made it across to LA”
But that might be the path that he takes next. As he still wants to see an NFL game he claims that Inglewood is as good anywhere as long as funds allow but St Louis still remains a key part of the Rams history for him and many fans.
“You have to remember that we won a Super Bowl in St Louis so it holds a great deal of history and memories and moving back to LA isn’t such a thing for me. I feel that St Louis as a city has been hard done by Mr Kroenke but that aside, at the moment I’d settle for a winning season which after four years with Jeff Fisher may be a little too much to hope for.
So the Rams aren’t the most attractive of teams but one that is close to David’s heart. He hasn’t many family members who follow the game although is slowly converting his wife to have an appreciation and is taking her to see the Rams again (although he does say he also has to take her to a West End show the day before!) but is confident that there may be some more fans after they play in London again. Why follow them? We leave that to David.
“The Rams are one of the most historic teams in NFL history – and that is wherever they’ve played be it Cleveland, LA or St Louis. They’ve had some incredible players on their side – names like Eric Dickerson, Jackie Slater, LeRoy Irvin, Isaac Bruce, Steven Jackson (who truly was a great player, he just happened to be on some truly terrible teams) – and that’s why they had the Championships and the Hall of Fame players as testimony to their greatness. I think they are one of those sides that are followed by people with a real passion for the game and its history. We don’t mind being unfashionable, would hate for us to become like the Patriots or Giants, I like to think that we have more discerning fans who actually know something about the game and its history.
We love the game and the team, pure and simple.”
Judge for yourself when the Rams do battle against the Cardinals on 22nd October. And who knows it may just be the best unfashionable decision you make.