THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – A seventh-round pick in this year's draft, rookie Samuel Sloman entered training camp having to go up against two other players with professional football experience – Lirim Hajrullahu in the CFL and Austin MacGinnis in the XFL – for the Rams' starting job.
"It's just one of those things, my mindset every day was control what I can control. It's up to me to perform at my highest ability and make kicks," Sloman said during a video conference with local media Saturday afternoon. "It really didn't matter what was going on, I just approached it every single day, controlling what I can control, making as many kicks as possible, just performing the way I know I can."
That approach served him well. While the competition, according to Rams head coach Sean McVay, was "even throughout," Sloman's leg strength, youth, mental toughness and push made over the final two days of camp ultimately won out.
"I was pretty happy. I was excited, but I was also a little bit relieved," Sloman said. "I'm really excited just to be able to prepare for next week and focus on doing my job next Sunday. I think we're able to make that shift to get a little bit better rhythm with (long snapper) Jake (McQuaide) and (punter) Johnny (Hekker)."
Sloman said he found out he won the job yesterday, when he stopped by special teams coordinator John Bonamego's office after completing his daily COVID-19 test. Friday was an off day for players, and Sloman said he usually watches film with Bonamego in his office on those days.
"I went into his office and he congratulated me. So, when he congratulated me, I knew," Sloman said. "I told my parents; they were pretty excited."
Stepping in to replace Greg Zuerlein, Sloman is no stranger to executing in pressure situations.
During a Rams post-draft show in early May, Senior Personnel Executive Brian Xanders told Voice of the Rams J.B. Long that in the last two years, Sloman was 27 of 29 on field goal attempts in the second half or overtime. Sloman's 93 percent accuracy on those kicks "is one of the best I've seen in terms of college kicking," Xanders said.
As for the leg strength and upside that appealed to McVay, the 22-year-old Sloman made 14 of 19 field goal attempts of 40 or more yards over the last two years. Sloman also improved his kickoff length in each of his four seasons at Miami (Ohio), recording 12 touchbacks as a freshman, 21 as a sophomore, 42 as a junior and 52 as a senior, according to his school bio.
Asked about his approach to competing against the older, more experienced MacGinnis (age 25) and Hajrullahu (30), Sloman said he looked inward rather than outward.
"I really focused on myself, because I knew if I was at my best or if I was performing well, there'd be no problems and we can just continue going as is," Sloman said. "It was fun, but like I said, it was just, I was always competing against myself because I know, when I compete against myself, I usually compete better."
McVay said he is continuing to evaluate what he's comfortable with as Sloman's field goal range. What's important is for the coaches put Sloman in situations that allow him to build confidence.
Fortunately for them, Sloman seems to already have plenty of it to work with.
"All three of those guys did a nice job, but it certainly wasn't like a runaway easy decision. Sam was the guy that we felt best about," McVay said. "I think it was really a result of, he kind of played his best in the last couple of days and I liked the way that he handled some of the tough days, the way that he consistently responded as well."