HONOLULU, Hawaii – If the rate at which tickets were purchased this spring did not serve as a strong enough indication of how much anticipation there was for this game, the Rams have certainly felt it since arriving Thursday.
Thanks to cooperation from the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL, the two franchises are coming together for the first NFL preseason game in Hawaii in more than 40 years. Rams coach Sean McVay can sense the locals' passion.
"It's been awesome," McVay said. "I think it's really a credit to the people that immediately bought tickets and it shows the excitement. You can just feel there is a buzz around here that you can't help but be enthusiastic about and we want to make sure that we put on a good game that these people deserve."
Saturday's 7 p.m. pacific time contest marks the NFL's first non-Pro Bowl game in Hawaii since 1976, when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the then-San Diego Chargers 17-16.
History alone, though, wasn't the only big draw that helped build up the excitement for this game.
Last year, the Rams' 2018 preseason games were broadcast across the Hawaiian Islands. Then in November, Los Angeles announced a partnership with the Hawaiian Tourism Authority (HTA) to promote the Hawaiian Islands. Part of the agreement included playing a preseason game in Hawaii, but the opponent would not be announced until a later date.
Four months later, the Rams revealed they would be taking on the Dallas Cowboys, a team they just faced in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs.
Tickets sold out in less than 24 hours.
"It's definitely awesome," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "They told us this morning that they sold out the stadium and I think it's cool. I know personally I had never been to Hawaii, this is my first time. I'm sure it's a lot of the guys on the team's first time, so to come over here, even though just for a couple days and get a feel for it, get to walk around, get to talk to people is extremely cool."
The Rams arrive in Hawaii ahead of the team's second preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Rams arrived in Hawaii Thursday evening, then held practice Friday afternoon at the University of Hawaii's Cooke Field with local high school players and University of Hawaii, Manoa head coach Nicholas Rolovich among those on hand.
McVay was very appreciative of how the school allowed Los Angeles to use their facilities.
"It was great," McVay said. "(University of) Hawaii couldn't be more accommodating for us. Whether it's talking to some of the coaches, them opening up their weight room, their practice fields, it's been first class in every way."
When it comes to experiencing Hawaii, McVay said he has been to Maui before but not Honolulu, though he expects to make a return visit to the latter during the offseason.
Will the Rams do the same in future preseasons? No arrangements are in place at this time, but judging by the immediate response in March, it's a strong possibility.
What is certain, though, is that many are eager to see what they and the Cowboys have in store at Aloha Stadium Saturday evening.
"The support has been outstanding and makes you certainly feel special," McVay said.