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Nolan Cromwell: The Los Angeles Rams’ original ‘High Flyer’ at safety

Celebrated legends are rarely labeled as irritating, frustrating or disruptive, but Los Angeles Rams great Nolan Cromwell fits that description well. This depiction of Cromwell represented his success as a safety than it did his personality. Offensive coordinators hated facing Cromwell because he severely altered plans on gameday.

Interestingly enough, Cromwell took over at quarterback for the Kansas Jayhawks during his junior and senior years, finishing with a total of 1,763 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. However, safety was Cromwell’s true position, and the Rams drafted him 32nd overall in the 1977 NFL Draft to play that position. The Rams made the right call, because Cromwell became one of the best safeties in franchise history.

Earning His Spot

It Cromwell some time to become a starter. When the Rams drafted him, they told him that he would be learning the system for a couple years before starting. His preparation paid off. Cromwell used his athleticism to his advantage and caught the attention of head coach Ray Malavasi and the rest of the coaching staff. He was simply too talented to stay off the field, so the Rams placed him on special teams where he became famous for faking field goal attempts as the placeholder.

The true birth of Cromwell’s career occurred during the 1979 season when he was officially named the starting free safety. He didn’t squander his opportunity, nabbing five interceptions his first year as a starter. His rise to success came at a crucial time as the Rams surprised the league by making a Super Bowl appearance that year. The Rams didn’t bring home the Lombardi Trophy, but no one could deny the amount of talent on the team.

Cromwell’s deceptive play-style became evident the following season in 1980. Cromwell terrorized the league with a total of eight interceptions. He read plays well, had a remarkable burst of speed and wasn’t a safety you wanted to be hit by. Cromwell soon became a recognizable force that offenses wanted to avoid. Quarterbacks simply didn’t want to take risks with Cromwell in the defensive backfield. Daring quarterbacks would soon see their plays backfire, sometimes leading to pick-sixes.

The Final Years

The domination continued through 1983, when Cromwell earned his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl selection. He did help lead the Rams to some playoff appearances, but never did earn a Super Bowl ring as a player. Cromwell dominated from 1984-1987, but nagging injuries trimmed his time on the field. He wrapped up his career in 1987 season and finished with 37 interceptions and 19 fumbles recovered.

Football carried on in Cromwell’s life after retirement. He went on to become a special teams coach for the Green Bay Packers (1992-1998). It was there that he finally earned a ring after the Packers defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. He later coached for the Seattle Seahawks (1999-2007), St. Louis Rams (2010-2011) and the Cleveland Browns (2012).

Source: Pro-football-reference.com, Sports-reference.com

You can follow Johnny Gomez on Twitter @Johnny5not6. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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