As the 251st choice of an NFL Draft that featured 254 selections, linebacker Dakota Allen has a hill to climb in order to make Los Angeles' initial 53-man roster in 2019.
But entering his first offseason program as a Ram, Allen is embracing any and all opportunities that come his way.
"I'm just here to focus on my new chapter, and just establish myself and prove why I'm a valuable member," Allen said in his Tuesday press conference.
As a late-round pick, that first opportunity will come on special teams. Allen said he's plenty familiar with the different units, having played special teams all the way through his time at Texas Tech. He feels as if he can step up in that area.
"Hopefully some good results will come from that," he said.
But Allen has potential to contribute at his given position of linebacker as well. He noted coordinator Wade Phillips' message to the rookies was, "Just come in, work hard, compete every day. And they really like to preach learning from the veteran and the older guys and that's what I've been doing.
"I've been asking a lot of questions and I just can't wait to learn as much as I can."
And as he gets those initial answers, Allen realizes that there is a path to a larger role on the club's defense. Linebacker Cory Littleton, for instance, entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Washington in 2016 and became one of the Rams' key special teams players as a rookie. In 2017, L.A. created defensive packages just to get him on the field as a playmaker. And in 2018, Littleton took over as Los Angeles' defensive signal-caller — the Mike linebacker.
"I know that Cory's worked his butt off since he got here. But coach 'Bones' also preached and said he established himself as a special teams member and became an All-Pro and now he's a starting linebacker," Allen said, referring to special teams coordinator John Fassel. "Hopefully I can do the same one day."
If all goes according to that plan, Allen can show his strengths as a linebacker. A 2018 first-team All-Big 12 honoree, Allen recorded 5.5 tackles for loss, two passes defensed, and a pair of fumble recoveries in 10 games. The rookie knows he has a lot of work to get there, but he's looking forward to the journey.
"I feel like I am catching onto the defense pretty well as far as the terminology," Allen said. "It's kind of the same as I was running at Texas Tech, but just use different words. So once I get the terminology down and use the same words, I think I'll be good."