Wednesday, December 12, 2001
Noa ready to stepTHE St. Louis Rams' offense is generally regarded as one of the best in NFL history, so you can imagine it's not too easy to crack the starting lineup.
into a bigger role
The Rams offensive lineman isProfile
prepared to start if called upon
By Nick Abramo
But that's just what Hawaii's Kaulana Noa has in mind.
Despite being on the inactive list for most of the season, Noa is second on the Rams' depth chart at left guard, and he could be thrust into action if injuries to others crop up.
Throughout the season, the St. Louis coaches have worked Noa at most of the offensive line positions.
"I think he is going to be a terrific player in the NFL," Rams assistant coach John Matsko said. "He can play at tackle and guard and there's a possibility he can play center."
Noa was a four-year starting tackle at Hawaii after playing for Honokaa High School on the Big Island. He was drafted by the Rams in the fourth round of the 2000 NFL Draft.
Family has had a big part of his life and his rise to the NFL.
"I've had a great support system," Noa said. "They always let me be myself and told me you can do anything you want. My parents have always been a source of wisdom and guidance."
Even Matsko is impressed with Noa's inspirational family.
"I think he's a terrific young man," the coach said. "His mom and dad have done a great job with him. I met both his parents and he's just a wonderful kid. He enjoys life and he enjoys being around people and he's fun to be around."
Because of his dad's influence, Noa grew up a Washington Redskins fan.
"I wanted to be like Joe Theismann and John Riggins," Noa said.
"I never thought I'd be a lineman. In the backyard, I was a quarterback, and now it's kind of funny I'm a lineman and I protect guys like that."
Making the NFL is the highlight of the 6-foot-3, 307-pound Noa's life so far.
"Just making it to this next level, just to be in the locker room with Pro Bowl players who have been there and done it all, just to be a part of this is like a dream come true," he said.
And he continues to prepare for the call to block for two of the NFL's top players --quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk.
"Game to game, you never know (if you're going to play) so you gotta be ready," Noa said.
Not that he's trying to strike fear into the rest of the NFL, but Noa believes the Rams' offense can improve.
"I don't think we've played our best football yet," he said. "With our offense, it's all about what we do, and it doesn't matter what anybody else does. We know what we do, and with the guys we have on our team, there shouldn't be anybody close to us."
St. Louis (10-2) used the "it doesn't matter what anybody else does" attitude to beat the San Francisco 49ers 27-14 in last Sunday's showdown for NFC West supremacy.
Noa credits former UH assistant coach Al Beaver with getting him a shot with the Rainbows.
"If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have gotten a scholarship or got into UH," Noa said. "It just might not have happened."
Surprisingly, Noa has been hanging out with second-year Rams defensive tackle Brian Young, a former rival at Texas-El Paso.
"We do a lot of things together, go to the movies, go to the mall, go mess around, and in college, we butted heads," Noa said.
"Our team is pretty close and the offensive linemen are the closest part of the team. We have dinner every Thursday and we all hang out."
Matsko sees Noa fitting right in to the starting offense, sooner or later.
"In the NFL, there are really no backups, so he's one play away from being a starter," Matsko said. "I think he's got a real bright future in the Rams' organization. He's extremely smart, he's very talented and he is conducive, talent-wise and intelligence-wise, to being a part of this offensive system because of the complexity of it."
Noa learns a lot by going up against St. Louis' much-improved first-team defense during practice.
"If you can play against those guys, you get a good feeling of what the rest of the NFL has to offer," he said. "If you can block your own teammates, you should do well against the rest of the teams."
There's one thing he's learned to love about football, and that's winning.
"The fun part of it is winning, to be on a winning team" Noa said. "It makes time go faster, and you're more upbeat and practices go smoother."
It might not be a stretch to say that the Rams' ability to win fuels their smoothness and that their smoothness fuels their winning.
And some day ...
"Right now, my goal is to actually get in a game and start, be a starter ... run down that tunnel and get out there on the field," Noa said.
And into NFL history with the smooth, winning St. Louis Rams.
Team: St. Louis Rams
Position: Left guard
Height, weight: 6 feet 3 inches, 307 pounds
Drafted: Fourth round (104th overall) in 2000 draft
2000: Spent season on injured reserve list after suffering wrist injury in training camp.
College highlights: All-America third-team selection by SportsPage.com in his senior season at Hawaii. ... First-team all-Western Athletic Conference choice. ... Started every game at right tackle in both junior and senior seasons. ... Led team with an 85.3 percent grade and 80 knockdowns/key blocks. ... All-WAC honorable mention in his sophomore season, starting at right tackle. ... Allowed only one sack as he graded 86.9 percent for blocking consistency while registering 84 knockdowns/key blocks for an offense that gained 3,554 yards. ... Started every game at left tackle as freshman. ... Ethnic studies major.
Personal Info: Born Dec. 29, 1976 in Honokaa, Big Island. ... All-state second-team and all-Big Island Interscholastic League first-team selection at Honokaa High School. ... Grew up near former Rams center and Iolani star Bern Brostek.
Source: St. Louis Rams