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Where Are They Now? Former Rams RB Robert Delpino

Much like a Boy Scout, an NFL prospect would be well served to be prepared. One never knows when you can go from leisurely eating a sandwich to showcasing your gridiron talent a few minutes later.

Ask Robert Delpino.

"I was having lunch in the student union's athletes dining area, and Russ Ball, the strength and conditioning coach, approached me and said, 'Hey, Robert, I need to talk to you in my office.' And I'm thinking it had to be something academic-related because it was after the football season," Delpino said.

"So I walk into the office and there's John Robinson and Lawrence McCutcheon of the L.A. Rams, and they said, 'We're interested in drafting you, but we would just like to work you out first.' I'm thinking well, I'll have time (to get ready for it). And they're like, 'Now.' So I got dressed, we went down to the stadium, and they worked me out. Talking about needing to be ready at the right moment."

The University of Missouri running back was fortunate enough to be ready and impressive enough to be selected by the Rams in the fifth round of the 1988 Draft. "Oh, it was phenomenal," Delpino said. "It was amazing. I was elated."

He was also not alone. Los Angeles chose another running back, UCLA's Gaston Green, in the first round.

"I wasn't too surprised or concerned. I kind of had an idea what they were doing," Delpino said. "By the time I arrived (at the team's facilities) in Anaheim, I realized that the whole hoopla was around Eric Dickerson's departure (via a trade to Indianapolis). There was still a lot of media surrounding that. Who's going to replace Eric Dickerson?

"I had no idea what the politics were going on with that because I really didn't realize who they drafted or what the roster was until I got to training camp. I never kept track of that stuff. I just played ball and went to class."

The Rams' Rookie of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year in 1988, Delpino helped Los Angeles post an 11-5 record the following season and make it to the NFC Championship Game. Although San Francisco won that afternoon, he called it, team-wise, the biggest year of his life.

And two seasons later, even though they finished with a dismal 3-13 record, he had "a blast" after becoming the full-time starter and rushing for a career-high 688 yards and nine touchdowns, to go along with a career-high 55 receptions for 617 yards and a touchdown.


"Of course, it's not fun losing, but that was the most fun I ever had playing football. I was voted the Most Valuable Player that year. I was happy as all get out. We went to New York to play the Giants (in Week 2) after they won the Super Bowl, and beat them (19-13)," said Delpino, who had a game-high 27 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown.

With Los Angeles for five of his six seasons in the NFL, finishing up with Denver in 1993, Delpino has almost countless fond memories from his time as a Ram. From on-the-field successes such as the 19 times he found the end zone, to the time when the alarm clock didn't go off following a preseason game in West Berlin that left him a little lighter in the wallet.

"John Robinson left Fred Strickland and I in Germany after we woke up late and missed the plane," Delpino laughed. "We had to take a separate flight home. The Rams, their plane had slight problems and had to land, I believe in New York. And then we actually arrived back to L.A. before they arrived. That was fun. We still got fined, though.

"But my fondest memories I'd have to say was the overall camaraderie with my teammates and the interactions with the coaches. And I'm most proud of receiving the Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game Award. After Carl had passed away (in 1990 due to a car accident), they started an award for him, and I was the first recipient. That means the most to me because he was such an honorable man. I didn't know him that well, personally, but as far as his work ethic and his spirit toward the game of football, that award means a lot to me."

Something else which means a lot to Delpino is the career field he chose after football – social work – and the reason why he did so.


"Growing up in Kansas, my mom raised eight of us, and there was always someone there to help us out. I learned later that that person was called a social worker," Delpino said. "I wanted to give back. I wanted to be that person to be there for those kids. So I started my degree in social work at Missouri and then I got drafted, finished my career, went on to finish my degree at La Sierra University, and got a bachelor's in social work."

After working with abused and neglected children for 16 years, Delpino made the decision to go back to school and earn a master's degree in counseling psychology from California Baptist University. With sheepskin in hand, he accepted a job in the Chaffey Joint Union High School District in Ontario, CA, 14 years ago, where he's a licensed marriage and family therapist.

"I just enjoy what I do. I enjoy the interaction. But what I enjoy most is watching the children grow and blossom like a flower," Delpino said. "They realize that they do have a disability and they'll probably have it the rest of their life. What are we going to do about it? Let's get to work! And that's what they do. It's wonderful seeing their growth and their blossoming, so to speak, in preparation for their young adulthood.

"It takes me back to my childhood, that feeling like someone truly cares. They chose the profession to help children. That made me feel so good. It made me feel so worthy that there are people like that to help us out. And now to be able to kind of be that person in my profession, the best way to describe it is it's fulfilling. I'm achieving a goal of mine that I worked for my entire life. And being able to add to the young minds of our future, there's no greater feeling."

Making his home in Banning, Delpino's girlfriend, Sherene Roth, also works in special education for the Corona-Norco Unified School District.

He has two adult children: Darionne, who earned her master's from Cal Baptist University and is a licensed marriage and family therapist like her dad. And Robert Jr., who studied at San Diego State and is an events production assistant at a small independent agency in Los Angeles, as well as a musician.

And what's the best thing about being Robert Delpino today?

"Realizing that all of my hard work, despite whatever goal I have set, I've been able to achieve that through the grace of God in my higher power," he said. "And just knowing that the work ethic that my mom instilled in all of her eight children, she was true to her word. She passed away, and just to be able to make her proud, and to be a part of my children's life, watch them grow and basically establish that same work ethic that my mom passed down to me."

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