ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rodger Saffold is wearing No. 76, Orlando Pace's old jersey number. That shows how much the St. Louis Rams think of the offensive lineman they drafted to start the second round.
"I always thought I'd be following in Orlando's footsteps," Saffold said Sunday after the Rams concluded their three-day rookie minicamp.
Saffold is an Ohio native like Pace, who starred at Ohio State and was seven-time Pro Bowler for St. Louis.
"I went to Indiana but now I'm with the Rams," Saffold said. "It just feels really good to come out and wear his jersey and be able to stand on that field."
St. Louis used the 33rd pick in the draft on a potential bodyguard for first overall selection quarterback Sam Bradford.
The Rams picked Saffold next. At 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds, he fit what they were looking for. The Rams brain trust saw on film a player who could be a devastating run blocker and a solid quarterback protector.
In his Hoosiers career, Saffold started 41 of a possible 42 games. He turned in a dominant performance at the East-West Shrine game that caught the attention of scouts across the NFL.
He chose Pace's number, which his father, Roger Saffold Jr., also wore in high school and at Iowa, where he played in the mid-1970s.
To show his respect, Saffold called Pace to ask his blessing to wear his old number. He left a message on Pace's voice mail and said he intends to call him again if he doesn't hear from him.
"I appreciate the Rams letting me have that number and I appreciate Orlando letting me have it as a tribute to him," Saffold said. "I'm going to call him again and tell him thank you for letting me have that. I pretty much know he's the lineman God around here."
And what if Pace doesn't want him to wear it?
"I guess 75 is available," Saffold said and laughed.
When he was 11, his father brought him to a Rams game from Bedford, Ohio. He met Pace at Dave and Buster's Restaurant, which is near Rams Park in Earth City, Mo. He got Pace to sign a jersey, the old blue and yellow one worn by the Super Bowl champions.
"My dad told me to be humble and just ask for the autograph," Saffold said. "He did and he was so nice about it."
Saffold spent the majority of his college career at left tackle but figures to plug in on the right side for the Rams, where he could compete for a starting job.
His arrival could mean the departure of Alex Barron, who is an unsigned restricted free agent. Jason Smith, last year's second-overall pick in the draft, may be moving to left tackle this year, which Barron played last season.
Moving to the right side is not problem for Saffold.
"Right tackle would be just as fine," he said. "Switching up from left to right tackle is just like potato and po-tah-toe. Going ahead and anchoring down that right side is just as much of an important job as that left tackle has."
Coach Steve Spagnuolo said it's difficult to evaluate linemen in camp without pads.
"It is hard. (defensive line coach) Brendan (Daly) and (offensive line coach) Steve Loney do as much as they can with skill and technique and footwork, but you really can't push anybody and you have to be careful what you do," Saffold said. "We don't want to get anybody hurt."
Bradford and Saffold roomed together at the hotel near Rams Park for the minicamp.
"It was all good," Saffold said. "Just being able to sit and talk with him, things like that. He knows where I'm at and I know where he's at. It made it kind of a tandem out here."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)