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Where Are They Now: Former Rams linebacker Mark Jerue

Mark Jerue spent his rookie season in 1982 on the Jets' injured reserve list because of an irregular heartbeat.

However, five days before the following season kicked off was anything but regular for the linebacker. Within an hour while sitting in a New York hotel room, he went from being with the Jets to the Colts and then to the Rams.

"The Jets were trying to sneak me through on waivers," Jerue said. "They told me, 'We're going to slide you through and put you on injured reserve to start the season,' because I had a hamstring injury. Then the Colts picked me up off waivers, but I never spoke with the Colts. The first thing I heard was when the Rams called and told me that they traded for me.

"It was great. West Coast. California. I couldn't be any more excited. They were familiar with me from my days at University of Washington, so I think that had a lot to do with them picking me up."


With Los Angeles choosing only two linebackers in that year's draft – Mike Wilcher and Danny Triplett – the veterans could take more time to help out younger players like Jerue.

"I had a really good guy ahead of me, Carl Ekern," Jerue said. "A really, really, good tutor. A mentor. Probably as smart a guy as I've ever seen play the game. He was like having another coach out on the field all the time."

Jerue, who was a core special teams player during his first three seasons, stepped into the starting lineup in 1986, replacing Jim Collins, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. And he did an exceptional job, finishing second on the team with 109 tackles, 83 solo. More than doubling his previous career totals.

"It was great," Jerue said. "The highlight of my career was that season. And it was a little bit unexpected. I just assumed Jimmy would recover from his shoulder injury."

It was a season of career-firsts for Jerue. First start. First interception. And first touchdown, when he found the end zone on a 22-yard interception return off of Atlanta's David Archer during the Week 8 14-7 victory over the Falcons.

"I was surprised the guy threw it," laughed Jerue, who had come close to having a pick-six in college off of Stanford quarterback John Elway, only to be knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line. "Just zone coverage, broke on the ball. He definitely never saw me."

As enjoyable as the 1986 season was for Jerue, the next year was just the opposite after injuring his left knee.

"That was the start of the end of my career," Jerue said. "I got chop blocked. Back in the day, when you were engaged with another lineman, another player could come and chop you at the knees.

"And then we went on strike right after that, so I wasn't able to rehab it with the Rams. I just was doing it on my own. I should have paid for a physical therapist. I never really got back the way I should have. I was taking cortisone injections to try and play, and unfortunately, blew it out two more times after that."

After undergoing three surgeries over two years, instead of feeling he was on the mend, Jerue felt discouraged. "I just couldn't get it right," he said. "The knee always felt loose. And then it started getting really arthritic. Trying to come back too soon, it just never felt right. I just wasn't able to play at the same level. So it was frustrating."

His determination to overcome the seemingly never-ending challenges didn't go unnoticed by his teammates and coaches. "Football ought to mean as much to everyone who plays the game as it does to Mark Jerue," defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur told reporters. "All you need to do is watch him working eight hours a day, five days a week in the offseason, to bring back an injury everyone thought couldn't come back."

"I wasn't the most athletic or talented guy, so I got by with hard work and toughness, and those are traits that appeal to coaches," Jerue laughed. "Yeah, I knew I was one of his favorite guys.

"It was very satisfying (to get back out on the field three years after I was initially hurt), but I still wasn't feeling 100 percent. My knee was still loose. Most of my cartilage had been removed from the different surgeries. So it was great to be back out there, but it was frustrating that I wasn't able to play at the level I knew I could."

The Rams made it to the playoffs six times in the seven seasons Jerue was with the team, all under head coach John Robinson. A leader on the field when he was healthy and a leader by example when he wasn't, what makes him most proud of his career?

"I never anticipated, never dreamed, I would play in the NFL when I was playing in high school or college. I was a defensive lineman in high school, and then a nose guard in college until my senior year," Jerue said. "My coach, Don James, said, 'Why don't you give linebacker a try? You're 230 pounds. You're way too small to play defensive lineman in the NFL. If you want to have any shot, you'd need to play linebacker. Give linebacker a shot during spring ball, and if you don't like it you can go back and play nose guard.' So thanks for him suggesting that, otherwise I would have never even gotten a shot."

The day after he was waived in 1989, Jerue chose to stay in Southern California and take a shot at commercial real estate. Having gotten a license while he was playing, what led him into the business wasn't exactly peer pressure. A couple of his fraternity brothers and his brother-in-law were successful in the field and …

"They were all doing really well, and they were no sharper than I was," Jerue laughed. "So if they could do it and they're making good money, sounds interesting. So I went right into that."

He founded MDJ Investments, a real estate syndication company, and after owning it for almost 10 years, joined Lee & Associates-Irvine, where he's a Senior Vice President focusing on industrial real estate.

"There's three different segments to commercial real estate. There's office buildings, which that market ever since COVID has kind of been in the tank. Then you've got your retail, which is like what you'd see a Subway in. And then you've got your industrial parks," said Jerue, who makes his home in Coto de Caza with his wife, Deborah.

"I buy and sell investment properties that have a warehouse component to them. If you own a company and you're looking to buy a building, you'll hire me to go find that property. If you own a building and you want to lease it out or you want to sell it, you'll hire me to help you with that. Just like a residential broker, but I do commercial warehouse buildings.

"My office is in the Irvine Spectrum. So I work that corridor: Irvine Spectrum, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, Rancho Santa Margarita, Laguna Hills. It's kind of my main stomping grounds, but it takes you all over. I do deals in Corona and the last few years I've been doing a lot of business in Las Vegas and Arizona. And I own buildings in Texas and Las Vegas and Arizona, as well as here in Orange County."

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