MEQUON, Wis. -- In search of a spark that could take his team from the bottom of the NFC West Division to the top of the NFL heap, Rams coach Scott Linehan called on a familiar face. And called and called.
For the better part of the past two years, Linehan has attempted to find a way to get former Rams coach Dick Vermeil to come to his team's training camp. Linehan finally got one of the game's finest motivators to give in.
"I heard he misses it, so he wanted to come stay in a dorm again," Linehan joked.
In reality, Linehan wanted to find a way to get his team fired up. Who better than the coach who led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 2000?
"I was glad he was able to make it," Linehan said. "I told him I'd like him to come spend a couple days, visit and have him visit with the team here one of these nights before we leave."
Vermeil arrived on the campus of Concordia University on Sunday evening and spent the night catching up with the many people he still knows from the organization. He dished out plenty of his trademark hugs to players, coaches and staff alike.
Vermeil watched the team's practice Monday afternoon. He was uncertain what he would say to the players at an evening meeting, but he made certain to wear his Super Bowl ring to help get the message across.
"The thing I learned, having been through it ... is it takes the same things to go there and lose that it took to go there and win," Vermeil said. "Getting there is so hard. Everybody works hard; you have to find a way to work harder. Everybody works smart; you have to find a way to work a little smarter. Then you have to be lucky."
Vermeil knows all about what it takes to catch lightning in a bottle. After two awful seasons in St. Louis that netted just nine wins, Vermeil got another chance from Rams management to right the ship.
Those 1999 Rams went on to win the Super Bowl with a 13-3 record only a year after going 4-12. The 2007 Rams finished 3-13 so Linehan sees no harm in taking the chance to pick Vermeil's brain for advice on how to conduct such a sharp turnaround.
"Everyone has to do it his own way with his own philosophy," Vermeil said. "I told him so. Last year was a tough year, but you can come out of a tough year better for having the experience. Everybody goes through that adversity."
At 71, Vermeil seems content in his retirement, although he has plenty to do to keep him busy. He works as a guest speaker and is on the boards of a couple of companies.
And, of course, Vermeil is still working with his wife, Carol, producing wine in California's Napa Valley.
Despite all that activity, Vermeil admits he misses the game and his players.
"It was a great time in my life," Vermeil said. "I made a mistake by leaving, but I can't go back and change it. I thought I was doing the right thing, and I knew shortly after that I wasn't doing the right thing."
Still, he said, "I wouldn't trade those three years for anything."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press