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Steve Avila: 'Blessing' to start in first career NFL regular season game

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Steve Avila was part of the Rams' first-team offensive line throughout training camp, so it wasn't a total surprise to him that he would be doing so in Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Still, doing so in his NFL debut was something Los Angeles' rookie offensive lineman was grateful for.

"It's been a blessing," Avila said Monday. "I've been rolling with the ones throughout camp, but final decision actually comes down to the first game. These guys have a lot of trust in me, feel like I've been doing well enough in practice to showcase what I can do on the field. It was an amazing experience. It was stuff that people dream about every night, something that I dreamed about when I was a kid, and it was fun. I had a lot of fun out there."

Avila said the nerves of his first regular season game didn't hit him until the national anthem, but those went away fast thanks to reassuring words from captain and veteran offensive lineman Rob Havenstein.

"'You know what the difference is between college football in the NFL?'" Avila said, recalling Havenstein's words. "And he said, 'Nothing. It's just football.' That's something I definitely remembered when I was out there."

Avila said the second drive was when he got comfortable. Once settled in, he played a critical part in giving quarterback Matthew Stafford a clean pocket to work out of.

According to TruMedia Sports, the TCU product played 78 snaps and allowed zero sacks, zero pressures, zero hurries and zero QB hits.

Though Avila is a former second-round pick, that didn't guarantee he would be starting. Rams head coach Sean McVay said they play the best players, regardless of where they were drafted. Every spot is going to be earned, and Avila has earned his way.

"He's continued to get better," McVay said. "There's been some things that he's learned in the process, but I thought once he settled in, he played really well. He's continuing to learn every single day, but I think he's got great coaches, he's got great veteran mentors in that room. But it's the ability, it's the work that he's put in, how smart and conscientious he is, how tough and physical he can play at the point of attack in both the run and (pass) protection, and so we felt like he had earned that spot."

Ultimately, Avila had straightforward goals for his first career start.

"One, to not embarrass myself," Avila said with a chuckle. "Two, don't get beat quickly. That's definitely something as an offensive lineman that you need to have at the front of your mind. My assignment as well. So those things kept my head on my shoulder."

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