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Who is the Los Angeles Rams’ version of Shohei Ohtani?

We have to travel way back to 1954 to get our answer

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

With the Los Angeles Rams offseason in full force, the fanbase will be anxiously awaiting the start of training camp at the end of July. During a slow period in the NFL offseason, finding things to write about are especially challenging when headlines are hard to come by. That’s when my attention shifted to other sports, namely the MLB.

For anyone who isn’t paying attention to what’s going on in baseball right now, LA Angels star Shohei Ohtani is breaking records on a nightly basis. He’s quickly giving Aaron Donald a run for his money as the greatest athlete currently playing in Hollywood. At this rate, Ohtani is quite possibly the best in the world at his craft.

Ohtani won the AL MVP award in 2021 and was a runner-up last season. His two-way abilities are unlike anything ever before seen in professional baseball and he’s become must-watch TV every time he steps onto the field. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Ohtani won his second career MVP award or makes a strong push for the Cy Young this year.

The guy is just that freaking good. He has to be if I’m mentioning him on a football site. Ohtani’s production is absurd and it feels like nothing is going to slow his greatness down any time soon.

Unlike in baseball, two-way players are a thing of the past in today’s NFL. Back in the old days however, it was common for players to line up on both offense and defense. Stars like Jim Thorpe, Red Grange and Chuck Bednarik excelled at the numerous positions they played in their respective eras. When thinking of the Rams’ version of Shohei Ohtani, one name comes to mind: Hall of Famer Les Richter.

That’s right, LA traded 11 players to acquire Richter, the second-largest deal ever made for a single player. While the Rams had to wait two years for the California product to serve in the Korean War, Richter proved that he was well worth the wait. The HOFer earned the reputation of being one of the best linebackers of his era. His pure physicality and toughness was the key to his rugged style of play. Richter never sat out due to injury once in his 112-game career despite some pretty close calls.

According to his profile on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, Richter led the Rams in interceptions on defense in 1957. Richter was quite the athlete on offense as well as he also saw time at center and placekicker. From 1955-56, Richter led LA in scoring and totaled 193 points in his career. He had ice in his veins kicking clutch field goals which boosted the Rams to an 8-3-1 season and a Western Division title in ‘55. Even though LA got demolished by the Browns in the championship that year, Richter’s placekicking led to some pretty unbelievable finishes.

The game of football has changed considerably since Richter roamed the gridiron. He played in an era when the sport was far more violent and ruthless. Back then, players truly left everything they had on the field, and then some. They weren’t playing for a paycheck or recognition but simply for the love of the game. Thanks to big money in professional sports, we’ll likely never see that exact level of commitment again. Once a commonality, players like Richter are now a rarity.

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Historical David Boss-USA TODAY Sports

Last month marked 13 years since Richter passed away at the age of 79. Players may come and go but legacies are eternal. I’m going to leave you with a quote by Richter on his Hall of Fame profile that summed up his legendary career in only the best way he knew how:

“Sure, I play rough. But that’s what the Rams pay me for, and that’s what the fans pay to see.”

Boy, did he deliver on that or what?