Fans Connect to Past Through Alumni Program

Posted Oct 27, 2011

This Sunday, fans may have flashbacks to the Greatest Show on Turf when they donate coats for Kurt Warner’s Winter Warmup outside the Edward Jones Dome and see Az-Zahir Hakim honored in-game against the Saints.

This weekend, however, isn’t any different than previous weekends when it comes to the organization working with its alumni to improve the overall fan experience.

Hakim will be attending the game and brought on to the field to be acknowledged by the home fans via the Rams’ alumni program, which has taken giant leaps in the past three years and regularly brought back former Rams – be it the St. Louis or Los Angeles vintage – for recognition of their contributions to the franchise.

For an organization that is still relatively young in this market, the Rams didn’t do much with their alumni in the first decade or so they were in St. Louis. But with new leadership at the top and more Rams players retiring in recent seasons, there has been a renewed vigor toward honoring the past.

“We wanted to find a way to allow our fans in St. Louis to celebrate the members of the St. Louis Rams that thrilled them for years while finding a way to introduce them to the storied players of the Rams past,” Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ Chief Operating Officer, said.

Tasked with the job of pulling together the alumni information, organizing visits and coordinating events is Kyle Eversgerd, the team’s fan development coordinator.

Starting in September 2009 with the long-awaited jersey retirement ceremony of Rams legend Deacon Jones, the Rams have put special emphasis on ensuring that all former Rams feel like a part of the team’s tradition and their place in it. The Rams’ are one of the NFL’s proudest and most storied franchises, and bringing back alumni provides a bond with fans and current players that connects the past with the future.

Over the past three seasons, members of the St. Louis Rams that have been honored in-game include Adam Timmerman, Andy McCollum, Mike Jones, Grant Wistrom, Orlando Pace, Dane Looker, Ernie Conwell, Todd Lyght, Dre Bly, and Keith Lyle. Additionally, last October, the Rams retired the jersey of receiver Isaac Bruce, an event that brought back many of the aforementioned alumni and about two dozen of Bruce’s former teammates from his time in Los Angeles and St. Louis.

In an effort to recognize the great players who wore horns before the team’s move to St. Louis, the Club has also honored all living Rams’ Hall of Famers from the Club’s time in Los Angeles. The first player to be honored was Jack Youngblood, who was honored at the Edward Jones Dome in October of 2009. Youngblood was followed by Tom Mack and most recently Eric Dickerson, who was featured during this year’s home opener. Legendary Ram Merlin Olsen was featured in a halftime ceremony in 2009 with his son appearing on Olsen’s behalf (Olsen was sick at the time).

Beyond the player appearances and ceremonies, the Rams have also made efforts to stay connected to their alumni via other events as well. Most notably, Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace served as analysts for the Rams’ pre-season telecasts this past pre-season. The Rams sponsored a football camp put on by Dickerson back in July, produce a weekly tribute to former Rams legends on the “Rams Nation” television show and have also brought back players like Lyle to help out at their Club’s football camps.

“Our efforts to re-connect with our alumni are not just limited to on-field recognition,” Demoff said. “We make a suite available each game for any returning alumni and their families. We participate and provide financial support for alumni golf tournaments, football camps and charitable causes. All of our alumni are part of the Rams’ family and we are always looking for ways to strengthen those ties.”

After Hakim makes his appearance this weekend, the Rams plan to honor former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo and host a number of alumni at the Hall of Fame ring ceremony for running back Marshall Faulk at the Dec. 18 game against Cincinnati.