There are two paths to becoming a sports icon in St. Louis. First, is the way of the superstar player, typically humble ones with a sterling reputation that earn the honor. The second, more difficult path is to be shortish, white-ish and able to outwork your natural ability, i.e. be scrappy.
The Cardinals used to have a monopoly on scrappy players, thanks to Tony La Russa's knack for turning up guys like Bo Hart and David Eckstein. The St. Louis Rams found their own version of scrappy in 2009 with Danny Amendola. But now Amendola is gone, and the Rams turn to a new, potentially scrappier player: wide receiver Andrew Helmick.
A rising star in the early days of training camp, Helmick is turning heads with highlight catches and speedy play. But the scouting report we're most concerned with is the guy's scrappy status. Let's review.
The Rams signed Helmick as an undrafted free agent in May. The Dolphins were reportedly interested in him as a UDFA following the draft. He then got tryouts with the Browns and the Falcons, before landing with in St. Louis.
Rejected by other teams is pretty good start to upping a player's underdog score, but we also have to consider his chances for making the roster. Right now, the Rams have five receivers with a very good shot at making the final 53-man roster (Austin, Bailey, Quick, Givens and Pettis). They usually only keep six, so the long shot factor is there for Helmick who has to beat out another four players for the final spot.
Score: 8 (on a scale of 10)
If you read what the coaches are saying after practice these days, there are 90 players on the field giving it their all. Sure, everyone works hard, but work ethic is particularly important to the scrappy player. He uses that to overcome the innate biases of the scouting process.
Helmick discussed what sets him apart from other players in an interview prior to this year's draft. From NFL Draft Zone:
I feel my strengths are definitely my work ethic and speed & strength combination.
For weaknesses, I'd like to say I'm always working on every part of my game, but what I spend most time perfecting is being a little more loose while running, especially through the hips, and being more of a vocal leader. I've always led by example, but I'm working on being vocally there as well.
Man, that quote exudes scrappy. Even when he's talking about his weaknesses, Helmick brings it back to his work ethic. (Not a bad tip for your next job interview either, kids). And leading by example? Pretty damn scrappy.
Even the scrappiest of players has the occasional flaw in his profile. Helmick is officially listed at 6'0 tall and weighing 192 pounds. He would tower over most of the scrappy second basemen once preferred by the Cardinals. And his measurements give him an inch and 10 pounds over Danny Amendola.
As NFL receivers go, 6'0 is plenty big to play in the pros. That size could help him stick on the final roster, but it knocks his overall scrappy grade down a notch.
Players don't have to have some tie to the St. Louis metro area to be scrappy. However, having that local connection only adds to the overall scrappiness of a player.
Helmick is from Kansas City, Mo., which for most St. Louisians is a strange, foreign place, similar only because of the state's boundaries and un-contained suburban sprawl. But Helmick made the trek over I-70 to play college football at Lindenwood University in St. Louis. It's more than enough to give him the bonus points for having an established link.
Bonus score: 8
You don't need a mathematician see that the numbers clearly favor Helmick. He'd be an easy first-round pick if teams actually drafted players based on scrappiness (which would have been a better system than the one used during Zygmunt-Softli era at Rams Park).
At any rate, the guy definitely has his bona fides in order to be St. Louis' next scrappy star. All he has to do now is make the final cut. If Helmick keeps playing the way he has been through the first four days of training camp, he's got a good shot.
Be sure to give the guy a follow on Twitter @ahelmick15.
Bonus scrappy videos.