Lineman, like QB, came from Division II -

Lineman, like QB, came from Division II

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Just like the quarterback he'll likely help protect in the St. Louis Rams' finale, Roger Allen III took the back road to the NFL.

The 323-pound guard landed at Missouri Western after an injury-prone senior year in high school combined with a poor ACT test score led to zero big-school scholarship offers.

But the Kansas City native persevered. He's been on the roster all season, dressed for the first time two weeks ago and made his NFL debut last week, filling in after Mark Setterstrom's season-ending triceps injury. He'll get his first career start Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

"After a while you start getting the itch, you want to be out there," Allen said. "Once I'm finally in, it just feels amazing."

Quarterback Keith Null, a sixth-round pick, also comes from a Division II background at West Texas A&M. Null has started three straight games and probably will get the call again despite totaling nine interceptions in three straight losses for the Rams (1-14).

Those are only a few of the many young players who have gotten their feet wet for the Rams (1-14), who have 13 players on injured reserve and can clinch the No. 1 overall pick with a loss against San Francisco (7-8).

"He's going to get a chance to play in a real game where the speed is fast," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "We're going to get an opportunity to see him compete, and we anticipate he'll do the job."

Allen's opened eyes at his pro day on the bench press, doing 38 repetitions of 225 pounds. The player just ahead of him, first-round pick Ziggy Hood of Missouri, did 34 repetitions.

"If I could match that, I'd have been happy," Allen said. "But I didn't stop, I just kept going, and when they told me how many I went crazy."

Allen started all 48 games at Missouri Western, and was an All-American after leading Division II offensive linemen with a blocking consistency grade near 90 percent.

Allen said he waited too long to take the ACT, and posted a low score on his only chance.

"I waited until the last second to take it," Allen said. "I just panicked, I was so afraid to take it."

Such confidence issues evaporate on the field. He's eager to show the 49ers defense that he can handle whatever they've got planned, and an assortment of family members including his father, grandmother, fiance and uncles will be on hand for moral support.

"The key is to surpass their intensity, match their physical play with your physical, and just keep hitting them in the mouth," Allen said. "That's the key, to stay on them and show you're not backing down.

"I'm very excited, I can't wait."

Defensive end Leonard Little is questionable with a right knee infection. An open wound following minor surgery has not yet closed and coach Steve Spagnuolo put Little's chances at 50-50 on Friday.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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