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Where Are They Now? Former linebacker & Rams Legend Frank Stams

Five players on Notre Dame's 1989 National Championship team were selected in that year's NFL Draft. One by the Rams.

However, if they were picking only one, Frank Stams, the Defensive MVP of that season's title game, the Fiesta Bowl, would be a good choice. He thought so too.

"I couldn't have been more excited. Are you kidding me? Going to Los Angeles! I mean, it was just tremendous excitement," said Stams, a first-team All-American linebacker. "I got the call and it was, 'Please hold for Georgia Frontiere, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams.' Her name was Georgia and my mom's name was Georgia, so there's a small connection there. I felt comfortable. And then I spoke with John Robinson and I'll tell you, I couldn't ask for a better coach.

"I'm coming from Notre Dame and those (Ram coaches) were all Southern Cal guys. So there was a bit of an affinity there towards me. It was like the cousin that they kind of had in football."

Following the draft, Stams traveled to Los Angeles to meet with his newfound family, and was pleasantly surprised that their conversations weren't all about X's and O's.

"It wasn't about football, it was about character," Stams said. "It was about meeting me. Being hospitable to me. It was about showing 'Hey, we want you. We're going to treat you right.' It was just class. It was about who we are as people. I'll never forget that.

"And then after I met everybody at old Rams Park, they said, 'Come on, we're going down to the beach.' And we went to Mr. Irrelevant Weekend. They have a big party in Newport Beach (for the player chosen with the final pick of the NFL Draft). They just showed me a great time. I mean, I couldn't ask for a better group."

During Stams' rookie season, that group posted an 11-5 record, its best mark in four years. He contributed by playing in every game with three starts, and 27 tackles with an interception and 20-yard return off of New Orleans' Bobby Hebert.

After helping Notre Dame go undefeated the previous fall, Stams had become used to winning.

"That was kind of why I think they drafted me. Because winning breeds winning," he said. "It was great. I came to a team that had a wonderful history in that tenure under Robinson. I think when I showed up, they had made the playoffs the last five of six seasons.

"We went to Philly in the Wild Card Game, and won (21-7). Fritz Shurmur put together just a magnificent defensive game plan and we beat Buddy Ryan and his Eagles. And then we go the next week and play Phil Simms with the Giants. The offense did a wonderful job. That was when Flipper (Anderson) catches that ball and runs out of the stadium (with a 30-yard touchdown to win in overtime, 19-13).

"And then we get the short trip up to San Francisco (for the NFC Championship Game), and, of course, that turned out to be a disaster (losing 30-3). Those guys just played so good, that offense. And what I remember about that offense is they played so fast. I always say Joe Montana knew what I was doing before I knew what I was going to do. That was how good he was at reading defenses."

Starting 13 games in the 1990 season, Stams finished second on the team with 78 tackles. But after suffering a leg injury during the following preseason, you didn't have to be Montana to read that it was going to be a long year for Stams or the Rams, for that matter. He was inactive for the first two games and then placed on I.R. through Week 12, as Los Angeles lost its last 10 games and finished 3-13.

Back-to-back less-than-stellar seasons led to Robinson being replaced by Chuck Knox in 1992. And things weren't going tremendously well for Stams either, after getting banged up during training camp.

"We have home and home preseason games and my parents had come out. And after that first game, I tossed them my car keys because they were going to Vegas," Stams said. "And then my agent calls, 'Hey, what's going on with you?' I said, 'I'm hurt, but I'm dressing.' And he said, 'The Browns want to do a deal for you.'

"Knox just took over the team and I'm sure he was a good guy, but he was a rough sort. He seemed like he always was out to prove something. And he wanted to bring in his own guy. I didn't fit his mold. So I said, 'Do the deal.'

"And I go to camp the next day and here comes Knox. He says, 'Stams, we're going to do you a favor.' He was a Western Pennsylvania guy and knew I was from the Cleveland area. He said, 'We're trading you to Cleveland.' I said, 'Coach, sorry that it didn't work out here.' And I think I turned around and skipped into the locker room, I was so happy. I fly to Cleveland and called my parents in Vegas and said, 'Take the truck and keep going,' and my dad did."

Before catching up with his folks in the old neighborhood, Stams spent three seasons with the Rams. Experiencing the high of playing for the conference championship and the low of being injured.

"Here's my fondest memory – Mel Owens. It's about the people. It's about the players. Memories aren't any good unless you have someone to share them with. My biggest regret is I didn't have a family then. I wish I could have shared that time with my kids and my wife," Stams said.

"Mel Owens, Jerry Gray, Michael Stewart. And on the offensive side: Doug Smith, Irv Pankey, Henry Ellard. I look back and I was just so lucky to have those guys in my life. Because they teach you lessons. Not just about football, they teach you lessons about character and going forward. Which you're going to need the rest of your life.

"I was lucky to play with great players and then play against some of the greatest players to ever play the game."


Stams, who would go on to spend four seasons with Cleveland and Kansas City, is now a veteran politician. Currently in his third term, he's a City Councilman in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

"My dad was apolitical and my mom was… if there wasn't an argument at the table, then somebody was sick," Stams laughed. "So there was always a healthy debate in the house. And I thought to myself, get involved. People ask what I miss most about football, and I miss its honesty. Because when you're out there on the field in front of 80,000 people, there's no place to hide. You've got to do your job in an honest way with a referee watching everything you do. In politics, I don't see that. And I want to change that. I want it to be a level playing field. I want it to be honest for the little guy. That's why I got involved.

"And I was just talking to my wife, 'What's the next step?' I like being a Councilman, but I want to take it further. Maybe Ohio Rep. Maybe U.S. Congress. Maybe Mayor.

"When I got into football, Fritz Shurmur said, 'The only thing we want to see out of you is your effort. We'll teach you how to play the game, but we can't teach you how to give great effort.' And I'll never forget that. I use that in politics. I say, 'The only thing that I can promise you is my effort.'"

Of course, Stams' effort isn't exclusively focused on his constituents. He and his wife, Mari, have two children. Rhiannon, a graduate of Miami of Ohio, who works in the marketing division for Procter & Gamble. And Mason, who just finished his junior year at Ohio State, and is an engineering major.

Stams is also involved in film documentary production with Garage Creative Studios in Brecksville, OH, contributing to the series – Once Upon a Time in Sports.

"If you remember Art Donovan, who played with the Colts. (Johnny) Carson would always have him on and Art would just tell stories, stories, stories," Stams said. "And I'd go to the Hall of Fame Game which is right down the road from me in Canton, and they're parading the Hall of Famers around in convertibles, and people are yelling, 'Tell me a story, Art!'

"And then I'm listening to Austin Carr, the all-time leading scorer at Notre Dame who played with the Cavs for a long time, tell stories about when he came out, and I said, 'That needs to be captured on film.' Next thing you know, we're working with Jerry Glanville. We're working with Greg Pruitt. We're working with Bob Golic.

"We put together a sizzle reel and applied for the Ohio tax credit. We got it, and this production, Once Upon a Time in Sports, has been nominated for three Emmys here in the Great Lakes region."

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