THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – A fourth-round pick out of Central Arkansas in this year's NFL Draft, Rams rookie cornerback Robert Rochell didn't anticipate making his first start this early into his pro career.
Nonetheless, when informed of the decision early last week as the Rams geared up for the Seahawks on a short week, he had no choice but to be as prepared as he possibly could.
"Rookie is just a title," Rochell said during a video conference Monday. "And that's just how I look at a lot of things, a lot of stuff. Titles are tricky, and sometimes stuff happens, so you just got to be ready."
Rochell in turn authored a performance to build on in the Rams' win over the Seahawks, with some learning experiences along the way.
The biggest takeaway from those around him Thursday night was the way he responded throughout the evening.
He drew a 47-yard defensive pass interference penalty that led to the game's first points, a 19-yard touchdown pass from Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver DK Metcalf. Rochell said Monday the penalty stemmed from misjudging the ball and losing it in the light, but he wasn't disappointed in himself and received encouragement from his teammates.
Rochell later came through with a crucial pass breakup on a Geno Smith pass intended for Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett in the endzone with 3:09 remaining in the fourth quarter that forced Seattle to settle for a field goal, giving the Rams a six-point lead instead of three.
"He stayed confident," Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said postgame. "Even through the downs of the game, he never got down on himself. We were encouraging himself, of course, but he was already like, 'Yeah, I'm good, next play,' and that's the exact mindset you gotta have as a corner, especially going against good players on good teams like we're going against tonight."
Indeed, that was mindset Rochell said he tried to maintain throughout the course of Thursday night's game, good plays or bad plays.
"Just short term memory, really have a short term memory," Rochell said. "As a DB, you're no better than your last play. So the last play, I had to delete it and I had to get ready for the next one because my next one could be the best play, you know? It only takes one. This is the game of football, there's gonna be ups and downs and with that realization and accepting that, it's easier for you to move forward. Like I said, I play with a big heart. I love this game. Whatever they need me to do, I do it with no with a lot of pride. And I just really love the game."
Rams head coach Sean McVay, like Ramsey, was pleased with the way Rochell handled himself throughout last Thursday night's game.
"He's a mentally tough kid. He's unfazed. It's not too big for him," McVay said last Friday. "I liked the look in his eye during games, too. You can get a really good feel for some of these younger players just by, what does it look like? How do they handle the ebbs and flows of a game, and when the stuff really counts, especially in that type of atmosphere and environment. Certainly wasn't perfect, but his competitiveness, his toughness, his resolve, all those things that I think are important to be a good football player, I thought that was demonstrated yesterday and I think he's only going to improve and get more and more comfortable and confident."