Exclusive: Conference Player of the Year Used Rams Games to Dominate

Raheem Morris

Getty Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.

Someone was taking notes on the Los Angeles Rams from Kalamazoo, Michigan.

And this edge rusher earned a prestigious award in the Mid-American Conference as a result of watching the edge rushers operate for the Super Bowl 56 champs, plus combining the Rams’ study hours with his own underdog mentality.

Now, in an exclusive interview with Heavy on Wednesday, April 6, the 2021 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Ali Fayad from Western Michigan shares what he learned from the Rams — and answers if his own pass rush skill set can blend in with Raheem Morris’ scheme and fit in with the Rams’ culture.


Picking up on Moves Made by Past Super Bowl MVP

Fayad is considered undersized by some scouts at 6-foot-2, 250-pounds. Some scouts and teams may also shy away from the fact that he didn’t play in a Power Five conference like the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Southeastern Conference (SEC) or the nearby Big 10.

But he leaves WMU with 13 sacks and the conference’s top defensive honor. One player he sacked? The possible first quarterback taken in the draft Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh.

How did Fayad become a disruptive quarterback sack artist? Instincts and taking two nuggets from scrutinizing the former Ram Von Miller.

“If you watch the way I pass rush, I have a killer dip where my knuckle goes to the ground and I have a spin move that makes offensive linemen lost sometimes,” Fayad told Heavy.

That spin move from Miller was on display immediately in his Rams’ debut on November 15, 2021.

Then resurfaced during the Rams’ Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Here’s how Fayad operated a similar twister maneuver:

But the dip move Fayad was referencing was captured by Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus during the Shrine Bowl.

While Fayad has beat opponents off those pass rush moves, he adds he beats his opponents off instincts and taking what’s given to him.

“The way that I play football: I’m very instinctual,” Fayad said. “So whatever you give me, I’m going to take it. And if I take that, it’s going to be a plus for me especially rushing the passer.”

He’s not just instinctual. He also enters games remembering who gave him “wood to my pit.”


Underrecruited Underdog

The native of Dearborn, Michigan was only offered by three programs while earning a two-star rating by both Rivals and 247Sports.

But he recalls more what teams said to him, including one text message he was shown.

“A lot of teams said I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t fast enough, and I didn’t have the measurables that the other guys did,” Fayad said. “I remember, vividly, getting the Bowling Green text that my high school d-line coach sent me saying that my get-off wasn’t good enough. Plus Central Michigan talking about how I was too small.”

However, “Things like that became wood to my pit. I was just burning fire all within me. I earned everything. Thankful for my peoples for giving me the platform and foundation to jump off. I still got that fire in me just thinking about all of that.”


How He Would Fit the Rams

Fayad has mostly attacked quarterbacks from a three-point stance and with three other defensive linemen across the line of scrimmage at WMU.

The Rams, under Morris, have installed a more uncanny and unpredictable approach that has sometimes seen as many as five defensive linemen aligned along the line of scrimmage.

However, the Rams do have this need heading into the 2022 NFL Draft: Edge rusher. Miller has since signed a six-year, $120 million deal with the Buffalo Bills. Alternate pass rusher Ogbonnia “Ogbo” Okonronkwo signed with the Houston Texans during the 2022 free agency cycle.

Even as a natural defender who puts his hand to the dirt over offensive tackles, does he see himself as a fit for Morris and company?

“Most definitely,” Fayad confidently said. “Watching the Rams play in the Super Bowl, especially every game in the playoffs, I was watching their edge rushers and what their guys were doing to see if I could implement that in my game. I would love to contribute to them and help them win more games. I can learn from the best, get my feet wet and then take over and play an outside linebacker position.”

Along with carrying his personal underdog label, Fayad will win over members of the “Rams House” with this final message: Describing the ideal franchise he wants to play for.

“I want to go to a winning club: A team that’s all about hard work and keeping their minds correct,” Fayad explained. “I’m here to win and I’m not here to be in second place. I want to win a Super Bowl and I’m trying to win championships everywhere I go. If it’s the Rams, I’m trying to win Super Bowls and I’m here to go balls to the wall every single play. I’m here to make noise.”

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