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Rams shout it out, then they get to work

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2000

ST. LOUIS -- It was born not so much out of desperation, like Tug McGraw's "You Gotta Believe" for the New York Mets. It was more a product of dedication and perspiration -- the brainchild of Billy Long, strength coach at Southern University.

The slogan "Gotta Go to Work" has rapidly been adopted as a rallying cry by players, coaches and fans.

Rams coach Dick Vermeil met Long two summers ago when he was brought in as an assistant strength coach to help work with the 85 players who descended on the team's Western Illinois University training camp.

"I was so impressed with his ability to coach and communicate," Vermeil said, "that I started putting him in front of the squad because he's one of these guys who doesn't have a problem saying exactly what is on his mind, with very, very little diplomacy from time to time.

"The players like Billy a lot because of the kind of person he is, plus he's a heck of a barbecuer. He cooks for the whole team."

One day Vermeil asked Long to run training camp, "and he started this "gotta-go-to-work' routine. He'd go through each position, all the way to the coaches -- gotta go to work. He did it a lot and when he went back to his full-time job I took it over and led it myself. It's become a very meaningful part of our preparation."

There have been variations. When running back Marshall Faulk, traded by Indianapolis, arrived at Rams camp two weeks late and took his time leaving the locker room to join his new teammates, they converged on him, Long shouted: "Marshall!" and the players added: "Gotta go to work!" Over and over.

And when Vermeil decided to give the Rams extra down time during their bye week early in the season, he began, "Tomorrow " and the players shouted: "Take the morning off!"

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