Semi-Pro Football: Rockford Rams looking to reclaim past glory
Editor’s note: All Rockford Rams home games are at 5 p.m. at Auburn High School, 5110 Auburn St. Tickets are $4 for adults and $1 for children 10 and younger. For a complete schedule of Rockford Rams games and more information about the team, visit http://therockfordrams.com/.
By Matt Nestor
From 1967 through 1974, the Rockford Rams minor league football team dominated the local sports scene. They returned for three brief seasons in 1983 to do just the same.
This year, the Rams are back and are looking to reclaim some of their past glory.
The Rockford Rams have returned and are a part of the Great Midwest Football League, a semi-pro league that consists of teams from all over the Midwest, including a great deal of teams from the Chicago area.
“It’s deep in tradition,” current owner Brandon Hearns said. “A lot of people, when they hear about Rockford Rams, they’ve heard of it before because it was a big deal back then.”
It was a very big deal indeed when the Rams played at Wyatt Stadium and Rockford Boylan Catholic High School. The Rams, who won several league titles in their previous incarnations, would at times pack thousands of people into the stadium for their games.
“There were years when they had over 5,000 people in the stands,” Hearns said. “I’ve only been to a couple of minor-league games with those kinds of crowds, and that’s a lot of people.”
These Rams are a nonprofit organization that features a roster almost exclusively of former standout players from the Rockford area, such as Christian Kidd, Calvin Miller and former Boylan star Steve Harris.
“Most of these guys are coming from local high schools, so they have a lot of fans themselves just because of where they went to high school,” Hearns said. “For some of these guys that didn’t go to college or didn’t play after college, it gives people a chance to see them play again.”
More important than that, Hearns hopes that with all the former Rockford high school players, the team can be active in the community, which they have done with gifts to the American Cancer Society and family play days. They will also be admitting Pop Warner and Junior Tackle football players at their Aug. 13 home game for a reduced price of $1.
“We don’t just want to be a football team here in town, we want to be able to do things in the community,” he said. “And hopefully, we can help some of the kids either go on to school or do something further in football. We want to be a community thing, and be involved with everything around us.”
But with all of these things, it all comes back to their biggest goal, which is reclaiming their lofty status of the past within the community.
Part of their plan for that is to reach out to former players. Two former players are coaches on the team, and they are using that to gather as many former players as they can for their alumni game in their final home game of the year.
With a history that dates back almost 90 years to the Elmhurst Travelers, that could entail a large number of players. But Hearns said he hopes to see every one of them to celebrate the team’s rich heritage.
“We want to try and honor these guys for what they were. I grew up hearing about a lot of these guys, and that is what got me into this,” he said. “A lot of people haven’t forgot about the Rockford Rams, and if we can bring them out, a lot of people want to see some of the old Rams, and we can introduce the new ones.”
From the Aug. 3-9, 2011, issue