By Merrick Itera

Rookie Interview #1: Tom Ramen, QB

In the lead up to our countdown to the draft, I was asked to get to know the future playmakers among the 30+ new faces around the SFL Combine. I walked the halls, listening to fragments of various conversations and casually observed how they spent what little free time they had… searching for the few, that left no question about how far their potential could take them.

The ones that put in the work when others decided to call it a night, or tracked down a current star in the league and asked them to show them the way to get to where they already were. The ones that possessed an unspoken but undeniable confidence that inspired others around them to excel and commanded respect both on – and off – the field. Fortunately, there were plenty of prospects that met my conditions and accepted my request to learn a little bit more. Taking the GM hat off for the moment (though not putting it away!) I sat down with one of those rookies earlier today – he introduced himself as Tom Ramen.

Now, from my scouts, I already knew a lot about this particular prospective Top 3 pick.
I knew that he had the measurable; 6’4” is plenty of height for a QB or WR (which he’s dabbled in as well)
I knew that he had led the Sun Devils laudably well in his 4 years there as the team’s star signal caller. Furthermore, from talking to the coaches there, I knew that he was an apt pupil in their pro style offensive system which would lend him well to walking into a starting role and leading a team from day 1.
I knew also that he had a reliable support system in the form of his family, and that they would keep him grounded and prevent him from Johnny Footballing himself out of the league in shame.

I knew all of this, but I needed to know MORE. So, as I took my seat, I started digging a bit to find out who he really was and where he came from. How did he see himself fitting into 1 of our 21 franchises? What were his goals and motivations? Here’s what I found out…

MI: Tom, I’m Merrick Itera, the GM for the Las Vegas Fury. Would you mind sitting down with me for a few minutes and answering a few questions?
TR: I would be more than happy to Mr. Itera! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to get to know me and what I’m all about.

MI: Well, as I’ve been walking around the Combine the last couple of days I’ve heard your name keep coming up, so I thought I’d sit down with you for a few minutes and find out who this QB everyone is talking about is, and where he comes from… are you up for it?
TR: Absolutely! It’s time for the SFL to know the real Tom Ramen! Seriously, though -There are a lot of really talented Quarterbacks in the draft this year and I am grateful to be seen as one of the stronger candidates to land a starting position. I have put in tons of hours honing my skills and working with numerous quarterback coaches to make sure that I can hit the ground running with an SFL team.

MI: My thoughts exactly! I know you played damn good ball at ASU, but we’ll get to that in a minute… tell me a little bit more about yourself. When did you start playing football, and who taught you the game?
TR: Ah, lets go way back. I come from a highly athletic family. I have one brother who has been playing professional basketball for many years and another brother who is an up and coming star in the mixed martial arts game. My sister also appeared in the Olympics twice now as a forward on the USWNT. But my dad was always my number one inspiration.

MI: How so? Did he play ball as well?
TR: He was a college football star and taught me everything I know, he would have gone pro but injuries sidelined him and the big league was a fleeting dream. While the football gene didn’t quite stick with my brother its always been my strongest sport. After playing high school ball at a private school in the bay area I was one of the top recruits going into college. I ended up committing to Arizona State and after redshirting my freshmen year i got the nod to lead the team for the next four years

MI: So, would you say that your fulfilling your father’s dreams, in a way, by pursuing football instead of a different athletic profession? Is that where you get this drive that I hear so much about?
TR: My father really is and always has been my role model, my dream is to make him proud as he watches me from the stands. He has always been my number one fan To land on an SFL team and take that first snap will confirm to both my father and I that I really have made it.

MI: Yeah, I can see how that type of persuasion would really compel you to give it your all to excel… and it shows when I watch your college game film.
TR: My father wore #11 during his playing days and that is the number I have always worn to honor him. After every touchdown I threw in college I would find my father in the crowd and point to him to let him know that it was him with me on that field. College football was really just a precursor to where I am today, Vying for a spot in the SFL.

MI: So, that #11 wasn’t a tribute to San Francisco Sharks QB Jacques Luyindula?
TR: No, and while Jacques has loads of talent, there are times when it seems like the decisions he makes are not always the best. If I remember correctly last season there a ton of errant throws and his interception ratio was very poor? I mean, he has shown signs that he can be a top signal caller but maybe he hasn’t found the right system for his style of play, which is what I would call fast and loose. I like to think of myself as more refined than that. Either way, I wish him the best of luck in free agency and I hope he lands on a team that can showcase his talent… Now Nathan Lee is a different story.

MI: Do you have issues with Nathan Lee? I didn’t know you two had a history.
TR: Oh, we don’t have a history and we have only met a handful of times. It’s hard to understand why Indianapolis let him go after having success like they did. Maybe it was a problem in the front office or it could just be incompatibility in the locker room, we have all heard the stories. I believe Indy thought they were getting a player with more maturity with Lee and that just didn’t pan out for them. I can tell you this, those types of problems won’t be something that affects me in the league. I am here to make those around me better and learn from the coaches.

MI: I’d be surprised about you having such a mature outlook on being teachable if I hadn’t already heard that from multiple scouts and from your coaches at ASU… how much do you credit that for your success so far? You’ve got multiple bowl wins on your college resume, and from what I can tell you were being scouted by every team in need of a QB in the SFL … and that was BEFORE you scored in the top 5% on the Wonderlic! Seems like it would be real easy to let that type of sustained excellence go to your head… how do you keep everything in perspective?
TR: I see your point Merrick, there are many young players who come into the league with a head full of steam with the belief that they are the next hall of famer waiting to happen. I have always taken my career one game at a time, focusing on the task at hand and moving on after slaying the beast. I focus on keeping myself in the now, always remember where I came from and what my motivations are as a player and as a teammate. There are two things that get you this far in sport, raw athletic talent and a level head. I would like to think I have both of the traits

MI: Well, that’s what we’re here to find out, right?
TR: My mother was always the level headed member of the family and she always made sure we lived up to her standards

MI: Alright… now let’s talk SFL standards. I know you’ve played your ass off as a QB thus far in your career, but from what I’ve heard you can catch as well as you can throw… any thought of switching out the wristband for some stickum and going WR?
TR: The thought has crossed my mind, and there are many opportunities in the league at wide receiver. I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t a dual threat in that regard. I have even had interest from a few teams that want to convert me to a full time wide out. But my heart really lies behind center, carrying the weight of the team on my broad shoulders. If I don’t make it in the league as a quarterback, you’d definitely be seeing me running deep routes and burning corners

MI: Easy there, rook – your mouth could be writing checks that your ass can’t cash if you end up in the Western Conference as a WR… ESPECIALLY when you come to Sin City. On second thought, if you want to continue that “sustained excellence” I just mentioned, you’d be best served staying out of the Western Conference altogether. In fact, that would match up with your aspirations since I’m assuming you’re expecting New Orleans to call your name on draft day?
TR: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disparaging any of the players I would potentially be lining up against; I just have trust in my own ability. In fact I have spoken to Mr. Arrington out in New Orleans, Mr. Varner in Chicago, and (owners name) in Baltimore. I believe that owners are spooked at the prospect of having another Nathan Lee situation on their hands with a rookie quarterback, someone who comes in and performs well but doesn’t do enough to really solidify their spot on the roster and will have to look for another signal caller the following year. I think that putting myself in a situation with an already established team, one that has all the building blocks in place would better suit me. I really admire what Ryan Moates has done in San Francisco this last year pulling together some top talent and putting the team on track for a potential playoff bid, only lacking from what I can see, the right leader on offense. Another team that I think is ready to break out this year is the Atlanta Swarm, there offensive set is very similar to what I ran at ASU and I think that they could secure a playoff berth with yours truly calling the shots. It would really be amazing to land on a team in my hometown as their starting quarterback, my entire family would have their own section. Atlanta has really extended the welcome mat for me and I have had extensive talks with both (owners name) and their GM Mahmoud Ajlouni. They have made a strong argument for me to take my skills down south and provide some excitement for the fans.

MI: The Sharks would seem to be ideal – especially with Gabriel Manning receiving a majority of your targets! I could see Atlanta being a good home for you as well, especially with the shake up in the divisions. That’s assuming a team with a need doesn’t scoop you up before that, though. How do you feel about that situation? What do you do if you get drafted by a less than ideal team for your skill set? Those types of things are what separate the Veterans from the HOFers… what’s Tom Ramen’s plan when/if the draft doesn’t go your way?
TR: I’m adaptable Mr. Itera; wherever my home is and whatever position my team needs me to line up at, I will shine bright and will never look back. I am here in the SFL to make big plays happen and lift those up around me, I know on draft day the right team will call my name and I will walk up on that stage and wear the uniform for the team I was destined to play for.

MI: Well said, Tom. That’s exactly the answer I’d be looking for if I called your name on draft day. You keep the team before yourself, and you’ll do fine.
TR: Who knows, my name might just be the name you call. There are so many highly professional people in this league that it would be a blessing to call any one of them my boss.

MI: I can promise you that you haven’t done anything but improve your chances in the last 15 minutes! Now then – I can see your hand tensing on that ball you’ve been carrying around every time I’ve seen you in the halls around here, so it must be time to hit the field and knock out some more drills… anything else you’d like me or another prospective suitor for Tom Ramen to know before I let you go?
TR: Yeah, I’ve got a workout lined up right after we wrap. This is a big, strong, determined rookie class. We have the like of Kody Hill, Aman Takess, Xander Gold and many others, all of them are my competition in the draft and will continue to be my competition wherever they land. I wish them all the best. However they are also going up against me, and I always bet on Tom Ramen. The right team will not be making a mistake with placing their trust in me and my skills. We will just have to see how it plays out in a few weeks at the draft, good luck to all the draftees and the teams they go to. After watching Ron Cockren and Christian Christiansen play in the SFL championship I am more pumped than ever to lace up my cleats and make magic happen.

MI: Alright, killer – go kick some more Combine ass and I’ll see you on draft day! Get to work!
TR: See ya soon Merrick… most likely on the other side of the ball (grins)

MI: As I’m running one of your passes back to the end zone, right? (laughs) Get out of here with that mess, noodle boi!