Buches Signs With Rams

PITTSBURGH -- Former University of Pittsburgh tight end Steve Buches had no delusions of grandeur, as far as the NFL Draft was concerned, so he didn't schedule a big party with all his family and friends surrounding him nor did he invite the local media to wait for him to get the call.

In fact, while numerous other college football players watched every monotonous minute during this past weekend's draft on televisions around the country, Buches spent both days the way he'd like to spend all his free time. He went fishing. Sure, first-round pick Joe Thomas got all the publicity for going fishing with his Dad, but Buches was just as relaxed Saturday while fly-fishing with former Pitt teammates Matt Flaus and John Pelusi.

"Joe Thomas probably had a bigger haul, but we did all right,'' Buches said. "You know what they say: 'A day spent fishing is never a bad day.' We had a good time, and I knew the situation. I certainly knew nothing would happen the first day and the second day, we eventually got things all worked out.''

Buches went fishing by himself Sunday where he could collect his thoughts and ponder his future. He never did get a call during the draft, but Buches and his agents, the Ralph Cindrich group in Pittsburgh, worked out a free-agent contract with the St. Louis Rams shortly afterward. The Buffalo Bills inquired about him as well, but Buches already was locked into the Rams.

"Coach (Judd) Garrett, the tight ends coach, called me and told me this was a great opportunity for me,'' Buches said. "I know that they're bringing a lot of young guys in to help build up the team for the future, and I'm one of them. So, I just want to work hard, do what they tell me and try to make the team.''

Working under Garrett, a 10-year veteran coach in the NFL, will help Buches. This is Garrett's first season with the Rams. He was with the Miami Dolphins for six seasons before that and three with the New Orleans Saints. So, if Buches doesn't make the Rams' roster, he'll get a chance with another club.

"That's the way I'm looking at it,'' Buches said. "This is a chance for me to show them what I can do. I can block. I can catch, and I'm coachable. I'll do whatever they ask me to do. All I'm asking for is an opportunity.

"They said that they're going to take the best players to training camp in July. If I get a good chance to show them the type of player and person I am, then I should be one of those guys with the Rams at camp.''

Buches doubled his previous three-year total with 26 catches as a fifth-year senior last fall, but at 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds he was an excellent blocker and extremely reliable on third downs and in the red zone. Buches had 10 career touchdown catches, including four last season, and averaged about 11.5 yards per catch. But on the attitude meter, he was off the charts.

Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt continually referred to Buches when discussing the team's leaders last fall, and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh had no problem calling his number when the Panthers needed a clutch catch. But Buches knows his role will change a bit in the NFL.

"I know the Rams have some good offensive players, especially their tight ends, so I'm not going to walk right in and make the team by any means,'' Buches said. "I know a job won't be handed to me, but that's all right. I've had to work hard for everything I ever achieved. So, I'm not afraid to go in there and do whatever I have to do to make the roster.''

Six-year NFL veteran Randy McMichael (6-3, 255) from Georgia and second-year player Joe Klopfenstein (6-5, 256) from Colorado are listed as co-starters for the Rams. The backups are Aaron Walker (6-6, 270), in his fifth season from Florida; Dominique Byrd (6-2, 254), in his second year from Southern Cal; and Mark Anelli (6-3, 265), in his second year from Wisconsin.

The Rams also have a little hometown flair with Pittsburgh-native Marc Bulger as their starting quarterback. Bulger, like Buches, graduated from Central Catholic High School in Oakland. Buches doesn't know Bulger that well just yet, but he was certain the two would become more acquainted next weekend. And it certainly can't hurt a receiver to become friends with the team's quarterback.

At least that's how Steve's Mom, Laurie Buches, is looking at it.

"I was so happy when I found out Marc was still with the Rams,'' Laurie Buches said. "Maybe he can be like a big brother to Steve out there. As a Mom, I'm just concerned for my son. But I know he'll do well in St. Louis.''

Buches certainly isn't taking anything for granted, either, but he does have a backup plan. Buches has a degree from Pitt in communications and rhetoric with minors in economics and administration of justice. He plans to be a teacher, but not just yet.

"I'm not thinking about anything right now except making the roster in St. Louis,'' Buches said. "And I get my big chance next week, so I'm really looking forward to that.''

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