O Canada! LA Rams ties to Canada will pay dividends in 2021

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Did you know that the LA Rams boast several players with ties to the Great White North? Of course, I’m talking about Canada, that picturesque nation of tranquility just across the border to our north. And yet, despite the fact that the team plays in one of the most southern locations in the continental 48-states, the team continues to search for football talent to improve the roster, regardless of the location. Thankfully, they have found such talent with strong ties to Canada.

So it’s probably time to tip the cap north and write about that connection. The Rams have certainly been a mini-melting pot of professional athletes from around the world, and it’s that blend of star power that has continued to keep the LA Rams successful in each of the past four seasons.

Connections to Canada are as diverse as they come. We have a son of a Canada-born father, a star linebacker from the Canadian Football League, and a Canadian-born player himself. So who are these players?

Defensive stars

Safety Taylor Rapp is the son of Canadian-born Chris Rapp. Rapp was chosen with the 61st pick of the 2019 NFL Draft and has been a solid contributor to the Rams defense.  With a father from Canada, Taylor Rapp can elect to embrace Canadian citizenship via jus sanguinis.  That is that Taylor Rapp can claim his Canadian citizenship by the heritage passed on to him from his father.

Rapp was one of the top defensive back prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft. And so far, he has been a vital contributor to the Rams secondary. Although injuries hampered his playing in 2020 to just nine games, he’s due for a rebound in 2021. The Rams defense favors using three safeties, and that will likely include Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess, and Taylor Rapp. With the arrival of new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, look for Rapp to play a vital role in his defense for 2021.

Versatile in trench warfare

The LA Rams have lost two defensive ends so far this offseason. But defensive lineman Michael Hoecht, who just so happens to be Canadian-born, is working hard to make sure that the defense doesn’t skip a beat. And for a 6-foot-4 310-pound defensive lineman who can run a 40-yard dash in 4.65-seconds, he could play a vital part this season.

Hoecht was stashed-away on the practice squad in 2020, thanks to a glut at the defensive line with the late additions of free agent A’Shawn Robinson, and re-signing defensive ends Michael Brockers and Morgan Fox. Now, the Rams will need Hoecht to contribute, and he’s practiced for a year to be able to do just that. At Brown University, in 37 games he got to the quarterback for 16.5 sacks, but he created 174 tackles and 29.5 tackles-for-losses.

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CFL star does Hollywood

The Canadian Football League is a very entertaining sport and has become great summer viewing.  Due to the seasonal differences in Canada, their season is scheduled to resume June 10, 2021, and end on October 30, 2021, with 18 games being played per team over 21 weeks. While there are some noticeable differences in the actual game, (such as 12 players on the field), the similarities are such that athletes from one league can and do successfully cross over to the other.

CFL All-Star linebacker Derrick Moncrief is one such player. Originally signed to the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, he was released and signed on with the LA Rams after the team learned of ILB Travin Howard’s season-ending injury.  Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 220-pounds, Moncrief did see action in one game in 2020, when he was called up for special team coverage duties against the Miami Dolphins.

He played at the defensive back position in college football at Oklahoma State University but was undrafted after a rather modestly productive collegiate career. He signed on with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2017, where he developed into one of the best linebackers in the CFL.  Perhaps most intriguing about Moncrief is that he has such a strong background as a defensive back in college, but has bulked up enough to be a three-down linebacker if given the chance. And he recorded 69 tackles, four special teams tackles, and three interceptions in his final CFL season.

He arrived too late to the LA Rams organization to truly compete for a spot, but he should find the door wide open for him this year. His background as a hybrid linebacker makes him one of the most intriguing players in this year’s training camp.

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So yes, a tip o’ the hat and a wave of thanks to our neighbors and friends to the north. Canada produces incredibly talented professional athletes. This year, LA Rams fans will be cheering loud and long for three of those athletes. And with any luck, that number will grow in the future.