Rams OL Austin Corbett has made 'best of' opportunity after being cast off by Browns

LOS ANGELES -- Odell Beckham made a move from Cleveland to Los Angeles and is on the verge of potentially winning a Super Bowl with his new team, but he's not the only one who can lay claim to this fact.

Teammate Austin Corbett was also once a member of the Browns and a teammate of Beckham's in Cleveland. He too will take the field with Beckham as a Ram in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

Corbett's path is less prestigious, but does not pale in importance. The former second-round pick of the Browns mans a starting role on Los Angeles' offensive line and is one of five men responsible for protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford.

His appearance in the Super Bowl is the latest stop on a long, winding journey that included being drafted two spots ahead of future Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb, then losing a training camp battle for a starting job and eventually getting traded to the Rams. With all of that considered, the term "bust" is not only unfair when describing Corbett -- it's officially inaccurate.

Corbett has blossomed from a player forced to play two positions during one training camp to a right guard who started all 17 games and three playoff contests for the NFC Champion Rams. Gone are the days when Cleveland was trying him out at both center and guard to find use for the former 33rd overall pick, but Corbett's rise didn't come without a healthy dose of adversity.

Corbett lost out to veteran Eric Kush for the starting left guard job in Cleveland in 2019, effectively failing to live up to the expectations placed on him when the Browns started off Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft by taking the Nevada product. Then-general manager John Dorsey eventually decided Corbett would be most useful to the team as a trade chip, sending him west to the Rams for the meager return of a fifth-round pick.

Such a transaction understandably dealt a blow to Corbett's confidence.

"I had a lot of time to kind of reflect on the flight out," Corbett said Thursday. "Just, 'what did I do wrong while in Cleveland?' Just trying to look inside, 'how could I have done better? This is my fault.' Then quickly shifted into that mindset of, I have this new opportunity to go and make the best of it."

Corbett didn't have a ton of time to process his new reality, though he did spend a few moments steeling himself for what was ahead by surmising, "No one believes in me. That's just fine, I don't need anyone to."

What he didn't quite realize was that the Rams very much did believe in him, at least enough to insert him into the lineup as a left guard due to injuries. He ended up starting in seven games in 2019.

Fortunately for Corbett, he had a pillar to lean on in left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

"Just the amount of knowledge he can outpour in a 30-second ramble of film, there's just so much knowledge that he can put into this," Corbett said of Whitworth. "I tried to absorb everything I possibly could and (am) still lucky to do that now. I give a lot of credit to Andrew and really just can't thank him enough for just taking me under and allowing me to develop as a player and just starting fresh when I got here.

"The rest of the offensive line has done the same thing, but when you're playing with a guy that's 40 now, it's truly something special that you have to take advantage of every single day."

Whitworth could relate to a degree. He'd never been cast aside as a trade chip, but understood the cold nature of professional football, especially when it came to personnel changes. The veteran wasn't about to let his new teammate wallow when he knew a great opportunity had been presented to Corbett.

"I think really just embracing that you know what, the reality is this: If you play in the NFL, you've been passed by or somebody's decided not to get you at every point other than the No. 1 pick," Whitworth explained when asked what he did to help Corbett adjust. "Every single guy in some way, form or fashion, somebody's passed on you or decided maybe that they had a better option. So it's really all of us. So the sooner you can get over that and really focus on if you want to do this for a living and this wants to be your career, embracing where you are and fitting in and finding a way to 'hey, you know what, this is how I can help, this is how I can contribute. I'll worry about being the best player I can be and find my role.'

"I think Corbett's done an amazing job of that. Instead of being sour about being traded or letting that moment set him back for another moment, he's turned to a positive attitude and said, 'I'll embrace where I am now and enjoy that and move on from there.' I think he's done nothing but really grow as a player and a person and it's been awesome to watch."

The next season, Corbett started all 16 games, but only after shifting from left to right guard. The change has gone well for Corbett, who hasn't missed a start in each of the last two seasons while manning the right side.

It certainly helps a player's development when he's spending his practices going up against the best interior defensive lineman of his generation.

"Wednesday, I was out there getting reps against Aaron (Donald)," Corbett said when recalling the first few days of his time with the Rams. "Just a part of it. I think a blessing in that is there's no one better to go against and you get to challenge yourself and really work to better yourself in that."

Corbett's path to his current standing is emblematic of the Rams' entire offensive line, at least in Whitworth's opinion. Los Angeles is filled with stars, but only one of their offensive linemen -- Whitworth -- commands any significant attention. He's happy to take the spotlight and has proven he'll defend his teammates, who are now banding together to play a crucial role in a high-powered offense that has helped the Rams return to the game's biggest stage.

"I think really a tough, gritty group," Whitworth said. "You look at this group, almost every guy in it either has some kind of setback or adversity in their career and now is really getting their opportunity to play and has proven throughout the season to be impactful for why we're the team we are.

"You watch this group, their ability to really grow and get better at things -- I said this actually in 2019, which is funny -- that people criticizing the offensive line and some of the bounce-back from the 2018 season, just give these guys time to get their feet wet in the NFL. Give them the chance to play in more games, have a little more experience and they're going to be a great group. Just by I can tell the character, the way they worked, what it meant to them and here we are. The way they've played this year has been awesome and it's going to be an impact on whether we win this game or not."

If the Rams triumph, they'll be able to bask in the glow of reaching the summit of football's tallest mountain. For Corbett, the accomplishment might be a little sweeter.

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