There was a time not that long ago when Ray Ray Armstrong was considered very much an ascending football player. After his sophomore year at Miami he was considered a potential high-round NFL draft pick — if not a first-rounder. Although he started just three games that season (2010), Armstrong was very productive from the safety position, registering 79 tackles, three interceptions and 4½ tackles for loss. But he subsequently got caught up in the still-ongoing NCAA investigation into wrongdoing in the Hurricanes’ football and basketball programs. His football career slowly unraveled. In his junior season, 2011, Armstrong was suspended four games for accepting improper benefits while being recruited. Later in the season, he was suspended for the Florida State game after tweeting about having dinner with Miami boosters. Next came the hammer — he was dismissed from school in July 2012 for unspecified reasons (but widely believed to be related to the NCAA investigation). He tried to transfer to Faulkner University, an NAIA school in Montgomery, Ala., but his eligibility was denied. So when he stepped onto the field for rookie minicamp Friday afternoon at Rams Park, it was his first practice as an official member of a team in more than a year. If he makes the Rams’ final roster, it will be nearly two years since his last game. But if he’s to make the team, Armstrong will do it the hard way as an undrafted rookie. An undrafted rookie making a position switch. The Rams are looking at Armstrong as an outside linebacker. “He’s going to start there at linebacker, yeah,” coach Jeff Fisher said after Friday’s practice. “He’s just a really good athlete. He’s been off for a while. He’s in good shape. He participated in bowl games. He’s done some pro days. He got caught up in a difficult situation and he’s happy for the opportunity.” He certainly is. “It’s a lifelong dream — you want to play in the ‘League,’ ” Armstrong said. “So just coming out here, just giving it my all and hopefully making that 53, it’s something that anybody would want.” Armstrong said he was more excited than nervous Friday. He wasn’t hard to spot on the field. He was the guy wearing jersey No. 50 with the huge chip on his shoulder. “Extra motivation and an extra chip,” Armstrong said. The judgmental would say Armstrong has only himself to blame for all that’s happened. The sympathetic might call him a byproduct of an archaic system that leaves the NCAA and many colleges swimming in money on the efforts of athletes such as Armstrong.
Undrafted Armstrong gets new position with Rams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | May 11