He mingled with the fans, signed autographs and took pictures on a warm Thursday morning, and Dick Vermeil loved every minute of it.
In town to showcase his Vermeil Wines at several events, the former Rams coach was in his element. Watching football practice, and then talking to the team afterward at the invitation of coach Steve Spagnuolo.
It was no surprise that his brief talk ended with applause from some players that were in elementary school when Vermeil's Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV.
Said running back Steven Jackson as he walked off the field, "He almost cried, spoke from his heart and finished with an inspirational speech. Typical coach Vermeil."
Asked if he was inspired by Vermeil's words, Spagnuolo said, "I always am when I talk to coach. I tell you what, he hasn't lost it one bit. You can see he feels it, it's important to him, I know he's behind us 100 percent which I really appreciate. I can see it in the guys' eyes. You always look at the guys to see if they are listening when somebody is speaking to tell if they are listening or not, but they were all glued to coach."
Asked about his message, Vermeil said, "I told them this season will be about handling adversity properly, especially with their early schedule. They have to use it as a tool to get better. Just play well and things will take care of itself.
"I said the future belongs to them, and that this year's challenge with the rules the way they are is to make sure they do the best job they can do within the new restrictions of practice. It's hard to get better working less. So you've got to do a better job in less time than somebody else is doing.
"Hold yourself accountable and make every rep count."
As Spagnuolo noted, the players heard.
Said quarterback Sam Bradford, "He just talked about the new rules and how even though they were strict, some of the things we do ... the team that finds a way to do the most within the new rules is going to be the team that succeeds and the team that wins. He challenged us to find a way to do more and be the team that is able to do the most and who is able to win."
Michael Hoomanawanui thought he was listening to his tight ends coach, the always passionate Frank Leonard, after hearing Vermeil.
"He sounded like the same guy," Hoomanawanui said. "We hear that same message every day. It was like an echo."
And that message is?
Said Hoomanawanui, "About loving each other. Fighting for something. Taking the extra time to do the things you have to do to be a championship team."
Finally, linebacker James Laurinaitis talked with passion about a guy whose passion for the game will probably never die.
"He's still got it," Laurinaitis said, echoing Spagnuolo's words. "You can see the passion he has for football; you can feel the passion oozing out of him. He got emotional, talking about that certain bond on teams that's hard to describe about football. But it's there, unlike other sports.
"But mostly, he challenged us. To find our edge somewhere. Whether it's in the film room, or wherever. To be preparing when no one else is watching. That's what will make the difference."
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