THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The 2023 opponents for each NFL team had been finalized well before the draft, so when Steve Avila got drafted by the Rams, his friends and family's attention zeroed in on one game in particular:
Rams vs. Cowboys in Dallas.
"As soon as I got drafted by the Rams, everybody looked at the schedule and said, 'I'm coming to this game!'" Avila told theRams.com. "It's something I'm looking forward to. Not that I'm circling the game, but it just means a little more outside the game."
That's because it represents a homecoming for the South Grand Prairie (Texas) High School and TCU product in the offensive lineman's rookie season.
"It's a good feeling," said Avila, a native of Arlington, Texas. "I know the first couple games, just the feeling that I got, just, I don't know for me, but when the national anthem is sung, you just get this overwhelming emotion which kind of calms me down. But I feel like this next game, maybe the emotions start flowing, because I did play there in high school, played there in college. Playing (there) in the NFL, I just think it's an insane feat."
As Avila alluded to, he's already quite familiar with the Cowboys' home stadium. With South Grand Prairie – which is about 25 minutes southwest of Dallas – he played there in a pair of state playoff games in the first and second rounds. With TCU, he returned there in 2022 for the Big 12 championship game against Kansas State.
Ironically, one of his most vivid memories was an encounter with opposing player who would become one of his NFL teammates.
"You know a lot of faces, you remember a lot of faces," Avila said. "It's funny because I played Bobby (Brown III) in high school, and I played Earnest (Brown IV) in high school, and so one of the first things that I said to Bobby when I got here was, 'Hey, you don't remember me? Because we had a conversation after the game!' And he was like, 'What?' And I was like, 'Damn.' But no, it is an amazing feeling. I mean, I take pride in being where I'm from. I'm actually glad that we're going there and just being able to be in front of everybody."
Avila indicated the requests for tickets to the game have been pretty manageable. He also knows he'll have plenty of support beyond those in attendance this Sunday.
"(It's) up there right now, about 15, which isn't the craziest I've heard, but there's a lot of support that I'm getting from people I went to school with, people who I grew up with, and it's just, you can't really explain it, man," Avila said. "Like, it actually warms my heart, just growing up, always hearing about the Cowboys and being able to play against them and have the people you love be there to watch you. So it will be cool."