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Rams Legends Look Back on their First Playoff Game

Posted Jan 4, 2018

Former Rams players like Jackie Slater and Jack Youngblood look back on what it was like going into their first playoff games.


It has been a long time coming.

Saturday’s Wild Card contest against the Falcons will be the Rams first playoff appearance since 2005 and the franchise's first playoff game at the Coliseum since 1979. And for many of these players — 46 out of 53 to be exact — Saturday will mark their first career playoff game. A big moment for any NFL player, we spoke to several Rams legends to hear about the emotions and experiences involved in a trip to the postseason:

What was the feeling like when you knew you were going to the playoffs for the first time?

“Overjoyed.  And really excited for the veteran guys like Ray Agnew, Isaac Bruce, D’Marco Farr, Kevin Carter, Toddy Lyght.  Those were the guys who laid the groundwork for us to have the opportunity to play playoff football”

- Wide receiver Torry Holt (1999-2008)

“That was in 1973 and we knew we were a pretty good team, we were 12-2 that year and one of the top winning teams in the NFC. It was great! It was a tremendous feeling and until you're in that high competitive mode you don’t really feel as though anyone is paying attention to you and you're just one of many teams in the NFL. [But] it's gratifying. Out of everyone who is playing, regardless of position, background, etc. everyone has their limited amount of time in this sport and the idea is while you're healthy and young [to] capitalize on it and to go all the way, get to the Super Bowl and win the darn thing so when you leave the sport feeling like you did something.”

- Defensive end Fred Dryer (1972-1981)

“We had gone through two miserable seasons in 1971 and 1972.  We had a new head coach and it took a few regular season games for us to really buy in.  Our approach was to keep it simple, do your job and be tougher than your opponent. I remember running off the field after a game midway through the season, looking at Fred Dryer and thinking, ‘Damn, this stuff works.”

- Defensive end Jack Youngblood (1971-1984)

“We always won the division. We were western division champs every year. When I got the chance to start that was even more fun because we got all the way through the Super Bowl. That was a real thrill. Overall, it was pretty exhilarating. The feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction and relief…  I mean when Jack Youngblood comes up to you and says, ‘kid we better win this game,’ [that’s]pressure.”

- Quarterback Vince Ferragamo (1977-1980, 1982-1984)

“At the time when I joined the L.A. Rams, they had already been in the playoffs and I took it for granted that we were going to the playoffs every year. As a young kid, I took that for granted and didn't realize the magnitude. We had the No. 1 defense in the league and to me we felt at the time that we would go every year so it wasn't even a question. To me, it was expected. It's crazy what you expect when you're on a winning team. That winning attitude keeps growing on you from the team around you. It's an unbelievable feeling when you expect to go to the playoffs every year and it’s a contagious feeling you have. I feel like the Rams are back to that winning feeling. It's expected now. If you're as dominant as we've been this year, it's no question… it's expected.”

- Offensive guard Dennis Harrah (1975-1987)

“For me, my rookie year was really exciting. The season was a long one but you got excited because everyone's talking about a whole new type of ball game. We had such veteran guys on the team and they had been to the playoffs 6 or 7 times in a row. When it's your first time, it really is exciting and you really look forward to it.”

- Safety Nolan Cromwell (1977-1987)

“I was a rookie on a veteran football team.  It was amazing because everybody expected it.  These people expected to win so I figured I better get on board, because we were a good team and this is how we roll.” 

- Offensive tackle Jackie Slater (1976-1995)

What stood out from your first playoff game?

“It was interesting because both teams were on the same sideline. It was the coldest I’ve ever been.  My feet were frozen. I remember being an awe and thinking, ‘this is an unbelievable experience for a rookie.’”

- Offensive tackle Jackie Slater (1976-1995)

My fear was that I was not going to hold up to their expectation. I was a young kid on the offensive line so I made sure that whatever happens, it wasn't going to be my fault. I never wanted to give them a reason to blame me. I was going to be my best. I was going to do everything I could to hold myself to the expectations of my coaches and teammates. I didn't want to be the one who gets blamed. It came down to surviving and not screwing up.”

- Offensive guard Dennis Harrah (1975-1987)

“I was starstruck. Playing against Roger Staubach and Calvin Hill.  It was surreal. We knuckled down during practice, during film study.  The intensity increases, that’s for sure.”

- Defensive end Jack Youngblood (1971-1984)

“You get on the field and you realize you're one of 6 games going on. The focus now is on you and your team. It’s time to perform. It's intimidating and challenging. You don’t really realize that until you get into the high competitive edge of the end of year. Each game is a football game but the competition really wakes you up. You really feel alive out there.”

- Defensive end Fred Dryer (1972-1981)

“The change in environment.  Don’t get me wrong, the regular season was intense, but the playoffs is on another level.  From the celebrities, to the media coverage and the amount of fans, playoff football is on another level.”

- Wide receiver Torry Holt (1999-2008)

“The intensity of the teams - your team and the team you’re playing. It’s just different - its sudden death. You lose - you go home, you win - you move on. The focus of each team on both sides, you can feel the intensity.”  

- Safety Nolan Cromwell (1977-1987)

“It was against Dallas on the road. We somehow snuck into playoffs with a 9-6 season and playing Dallas in Dallas was a big game. It was thrilling but yet gut wrenching because you knew we had to win but with all that pressure it seemed to relax us even more knowing you give it your all, leave it all on the field no matter what. Stay loose, take chances, take risks, make the big plays.”

- Quarterback Vince Ferragamo (1977-1980, 1982-1984)