When the Rams traveled to Joplin on June 22, they were returning to help rebuild a place that only a year earlier they had traveled the same five hours to help clean up in the wake of one of the most devastating tornados in history.
Saturday night’s preseason game between the Rams and Chiefs at the Edward Jones Dome provided a prime opportunity to again reflect on how far the Joplin rebuilding project has come but also serve as a reminder that the development has a long way to go.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced on Feb. 4 that he was “challenging” seven major sports entities in the state to come together to help build 35 homes in Joplin. The Rams quickly responded to his call.
Gov. Nixon attended Saturday night’s game in part to award the Governor’s Cup Trophy to the Rams as the winner of the annual preseason contest between the teams but also provided an update on how the Governor’s Challenge is going.
“First of all, all the teams jumped forward quickly, both the organizations and the players,” Gov. Nixon said. “It’s excited the folks in Joplin to add strength to the housing down there. I know the Rams are committed to it. I talked to a lot of folks who were down there afterwards and there were many more volunteers for Habitat.”
In June, the Rams returned to Joplin with 35 able-bodied rookies in tow and a staff of nearly 100 to help work on three of the five houses for the Rams “neighborhood” in the Joplin challenge.
Upon arrival at the Boys and Girls Club of Joplin, the rookies were dropped off to take part in a Play 60 activity with local children. The staff dispersed to paint trim and everybody converged at the three homes the Rams were working on to raise walls and nail them down.
The Governor’s Challenge made no pretense of being a short term project but the impetus for the project was to help continue to shine light on the fact that the Habitat for Humanity of Joplin and the city are in continuing need of volunteers.
“When you look at a situation which in 18 minutes, 14,000 people were made homeless, there were 7,800 houses wiped out, it’s a long term plan,” Gov. Nixon said. “That’s why this summer has been especially important. But we have got a long way to go still to rebuild those houses and to build that community back.”
Even since the Rams and other organizations such as the Chiefs, the Cardinals, Mizzou, the Blues, the Royals and the Kansas Speedway (NASCAR), have paid visits to Joplin to construct five homes, the response has been strong enough in the community to draw more volunteers.
The platform provided by the sports teams have been integral in ensuring that people never neglect or forget the wreckage left behind and the ongoing efforts to rebuild in its wake.
“The bottom line is in difficult situations, organizations like the St. Louis Rams have really helped us rebuild Joplin,” Gov. Nixon said. “But I’m here to say that with the Rams help, with the Chiefs help, the Cardinals, Mizzou and the other organizations, it has been a real shot in the arm to rebuilding Joplin.”
INJURY UPDATE: The Rams top two picks from April’s NFL Draft departed Saturday’s game early with injuries.
“We’ll check him out,” Fisher said. We had some bumps and bruises but so far, so good.”
ROOKIES PROVIDE POINTS: After the first-team offense finished doing its work for the night, the Rams turned to a trio of rookies to handle the rest of the scoring for the evening.
Backup running back
“That type of situation you can’t come away with anything less than a touchdown,” Pead said. “We practice that every day at practice and it paid off today.”
Pead was followed by fellow rookie back
“It was good to get Daryl in there,” Fisher said. “You can see how explosive Daryl Richardson is when he gets the ball.”
And, of course, rookie kicker
SITTING IT OUT: The Rams had a lengthy list of players sitting out Saturday night’s contest because of various injuries and a trio of guys missing the game because they were signed in the past couple of days.
On the bright side, Fisher said the Rams expected to get some of those players back this week, including Wells, who has yet to participate in a practice in this camp.
Defensive tackle John Gill and receivers Charles Gilbert and Brandyn Harvey did not play because they were signed recently and hadn’t practiced much or at all with the team.
Among the players not playing for Kansas City were top cornerback Brandon Flowers and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who just signed his one-year franchise tender offer.
RAMS HONOR FANS: Before Saturday's game, the Rams rewarded 90 of their most loyal fans.
A group of 90 original Personal Seat License Holders were afforded the opportunity to form a fan tunnel in the pregame introductions of the offense and each person was given a brand new Nike jersey with the No. 12 for the year on it.