Thursday, Jul 19 at 8:52 AM
A self-described "football nerd," Talons linebacker Jamar Ransom takes as much pride in his commitment to study the game as he does in his relentless, physical play on the field.
"I like to sit down and learn everything I can about the team we're playing by watching film, watching how other guys play," Ransom said Wednesday after practice. "I'm always looking to improve my game."
Ransom's high standards on and off the field have made him a natural leader for the Talons, who clinched the No. 1 seed in the Arena Football League's National Conference with a stirring 62-61 victory against the Arizona Rattlers last Friday night.
The Talons (14-3) end their regular season with a road game against the Iowa Barnstormers (6-11) on Saturday night, and open the playoffs July 27 at the Alamodome.
The Talons have made their first season in San Antonio a memorable one, winning 11 consecutive games after a 3-3 start.
Ransom dismissed any notion that the Talons will coast in their regular-season finale.
"We're going to go up there and play all out," Ransom said. "We want to send a message. We want to let everyone know that even though we're going into the playoffs, there is no letdown. We want to fly around like we always do on Saturday, and play physical like we've been doing all season long."
Johnson: Ransom's energy 'off the charts'
Ransom is the Talons' second-leading tackler with 99 stops. He also has two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
But Ransom's contribution to the team transcends statistics. His intensity and intelligence define his game as much as his relentless pursuit from sideline to sideline.
"His energy is off the charts, phenomenal," Talons head coach Lee Johnson said. "Not only is he good physically, but he's a smart player. He understands what's going on. He understands what people are trying to do to us.
"You see him out there with the equipment on and he's talking, motor running, and you can hardly understand what he's saying. But when he's off the field, he is a leader. He calms down. He talks to guys. He's special."
Ransom, an Oklahoma State alum who earned second-team All-Big 12 honors as a senior in 2005, is in his seventh season with the Talons. The franchise played in Tulsa, Okla., before moving to San Antonio last September.
Johnson, who was defensive coordinator for the Orlando Predators the previous two seasons, chuckled when he recalled what it was like playing against Ransom.
"Our offensive coordinator in Orlando was worried sick about him," Johnson said. "He'd say, 'This guy is all over the place. He's here. He's there. We've got to make sure to find him.' When you can put that thought process into an offensive coordinator's head, and you're not the safety or the defensive lineman who can rush, you're doing something special."
Ransom grew up in El Paso
Ransom is only 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, but he packs the wallop of a much bigger player. Still, Ransom is small for a pro linebacker, which explains why he hasn't been invited to a single NFL training camp since he completed his career at Oklahoma State.
Johnson said the AFL is made to order for players like Ransom, who "don't quite meet" the physical profile of NFL prospects.
"But if you look at a lot of things you can't measure --- your heart, your motor, your character --- guys like Jamar have what it takes," Johnson said. "You can't put that on a clock. This league is a great opportunity for guys like Jamar who don't quite fit the mold in the NFL."
Ransom, 28, was born in Oakland, Calif., but moved to El Paso with his family when he was 4.
"I was an Army brat and my father got transferred to Fort Bliss," he said.
Ransom was a standout at El Paso Andress High School before signing with OSU in 2002. When the Talons moved to San Antonio, Ransom didn't think twice about following the team.
"I've been to San Antonio many times and already knew what the city was about," Ransom said. "It's a neat city and I feel at home here. I know how San Antonio fans treat their sports teams. I know how people love the Spurs. They embrace and love winners here.
"For us to come down here and have the success we've had this season has been great. We feel at home. We knew we could be successful if we came together and we've been able to do that."
Ransom enjoys interaction with fans after home games
Ransom said the turning point of the season was how the team responded to its embarrassing 68-34 loss to Arizona on April 22. The Talons haven't lost since.
"Anytime you experience something like that you only get closer, because everybody has the same mindset and the same goal, which is to win the championship," Ransom said. "I think the reason we've had so much success this season is because we've embraced that whole family concept.
"When you go out there and have a bunch of guys who are willing to play for each other, you're never really out of a game. We've been down, but we just keep fighting and rallying. I really think our family concept has been the push that's put us over the top."
So what keeps Ransom plugging away and playing arena football?
"The excitement of the game, but it's not only that," he said. "It's the off-the-field things as well. After every home game, we sit at the tables on the field and sign autographs for fans. The best thing is to hear their experiences, hear what play made them jump out of their seats. When a guy jumped in their lap or a ball hit them in the face.
"That makes it so much more interesting and you build on those relationships with the fans. In the outdoor game, you don't have that. These guys are so far away and so far removed because they're celebrities making millions. Here, fans get to know the players and that's the big difference."