Atogwe has talent

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Confident enough that his time will come, O.J. Atogwe is in no great hurry to be a starter in the NFL.

St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz has another idea however, which may make the Windsor native the latest Canadian success story in big-time four-down football.

A second-round pick by the Rams, Atogwe seems destined to make a name for himself sooner than later.

And in so doing, the former Stanford star could be the face of a new generation of Canadian-born players in the NFL.

While quarterback Jesse Palmer of the New York Giants, running back Kerry Carter and receiver Jerome Pathon of the Seattle Seahawks were late cuts from their respective teams, others made a bigger impression at training camps.

Toronto's Mike Labinjo, a second-year pro, has secured the backup middle linebacker spot for the Philadelphia Eagles after spending most of last season on the practice roster.

And Nick Kaczur of Brantford impressed none other than New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick to make the roster of the two-time defending Super Bowl champs.

Oakville native Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt remains the highest profile and best-paid Canuck in the league, but may soon have company.

Take Atogwe, who Martz is looking to add some oomph to a Rams defence that has struggled in recent times. After starting two pre-season games and getting plenty of playoff time, the safety is expected to see ample time when the action starts for real this weekend.

"I am not really focused on starting, I'm focused on me getting better as a player," Atogwe said. "I feel like you have to earn the trust of a coach. As a rookie you are unproven. A veteran guy in the league, for a while he's proven himself that he's capable of playing at a high-intensity, pressure situation. That's where I want to be."

The laid-back Kaczur may be the latest find for Belichick, who among other things, has made his mark by finding unheralded talent to plug into his championship lineup.

Kaczur was seen by some as an undersized prospect from a mid-major school. But Belichick saw more and as a result, Kaczur has cracked the New England roster as a reserve offensive tackle and is expected to see special-teams duty.

Palmer, meanwhile, was felt to be expendable by the Giants and likely was considered to expensive to be kept around. His agent has shopped the former Florida Gator around the league with no takers yet.

There also was an anti-Canadian rush in Seattle where free-agent signee Jesse Lumsden was cut as was fellow running back Kerry Carter, who had been with the Seahawks for three seasons. Also getting the pink slip was Vancouver-born receiver Jerome Pathon, who had been dealt to Seattle by the New Orleans Saints.


Videos

Photos