IRVINE, Calif. – Eastern Washington fans have known it for years.
Now the Los Angeles Rams understand what made Samson Ebukam such a special player for the Eagles.
“He’s a freak, man,” said Rams assistant Chris Shula, who’s seen more than a few of them as a linebackers coach and the grandson of Hall of Famer Don Shula.
The occasion was Wednesday’s rookie move-in last week on the campus of UC Irvine. Practice opened on Saturday – another chance for Ebukam to prove himself despite being a surprise fourth-round draft pick at outside linebacker.
“All the work I’ve put in has finally paid off,” said Ebukam, freshly arrived from LAX and wearing a bright-red EWU visor. “If you really want something you have to go out and get it – there’s no silver spoon.”
Few know that better than Ebukam, who immigrated to America from Nigeria as a child and has been playing catch-up ever since. Now he’s catching quarterbacks and earning $751,000 per year.
That money is part of a four-year, $3 million contract, but only $495,000 is guaranteed, assuming Ebukam makes the Rams’ 53-man opening-day roster.
That much seems certain, or the Rams wouldn’t have moved up in the draft to snag him.
Asked what he liked about Ebukam, Shula replied, “What’s not to like? He’s a great athlete, a great guy, a smart guy. We’re excited to get to work with him.”
However, Ebukam isn’t exactly splashing his money around. Since rookie camp, he’s been training in Seattle to save expenses and is only now moving to L.A.
His biggest indulgence is a 2017 Dodge Challenger. It cost $25,000 and is the first new car the Ebukam family has ever owned.
His mom is getting a new car as well. “I just told her, ‘relax and let me take care of it,’” Ebukam said.
Now it’s time to take care of business.
There’s hard work ahead for a player that some experts foresee as a project. Eagles fans remember Ebukam as a consummate sack master at defensive end. Now he’ll have more ground to cover, starting with the Rams’ massive playbook.
“That’s what the coaches are telling me: Get into the playbook so you don’t have to think out on the field,” Ebukam said.
“If you think too much you get slowed down,” Ebukam said.
“I’m excited to get out there,” said Ebukam, who figures to start camp third on the depth chart at outside ‘backer in the Rams’ 3-4 scheme.
More than most positions, Ebukam’s demands instant reaction. “Players are telling me to get into the playbook, because that’s what they did. I just want to be like Peyton Manning, calling the blitzes before they happened.”
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