Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006 | La’Roi Glover loves football and loves San Diego. He plans to return home to the city where he was an all-conference defensive lineman at San Diego State and a high school All-American at Point Loma when he retires from his NFL career. He’s now in his 11th season with an active streak of six straight Pro Bowl trips.

Once back home, he plans to remain active with the La’Roi Glover Foundation that he began in 1999. Glover sponsors youth groups to watch his team’s home games from a stadium suite. A foundation goal is to provide scholarships for San Diego students and to assist deserving children through non-profit organizations.

But Glover wasn’t ready to come home in 2006 – other than this Sunday, when he plays for the St. Louis Rams (4-2-0) against the Chargers (4-2-0) at Qualcomm Stadium, that is.

Despite a sixth straight Pro Bowl trip last year, the Cowboys let Glover go on the free-agent market. But once the New Orleans Saints fired Jim Haslett as their head coach and new Rams head coach Scott Linehan hired Haslett as his defensive coordinator for 2006, Glover quickly signed with the Rams.

“St. Louis was my first free-agent trip, and after we sat down to talk, it took about 10 minutes to get the deal done,” Glover said. “I knew Jim Haslett, I know the defense he likes to run and I knew it was the best fit for me.”

Can you blame him?

Twice in his career he’s had to look for a job despite consecutive Pro Bowl trips. Glover was playing for Haslett with the Saints when he made Pro Bowl trips for both the 2000 and 2001 seasons, but he unexpectedly found himself on the free agent market.

“There was a power struggle with Haslett and the new general manager (Randy Mueller),” Glover said. “The general manager wanted bigger and beefier linemen.”

Glover is a 6-foot-2, 290-pounder, so it may seem odd to label him as being on the small side, but in today’s NFL, 300 pounds is nothing out of the ordinary. Positioned in Haslett’s 4-3 system for the Rams, Glover can place a thumb on the scale with his quickness and aggressiveness to tip him onto the plus side.

“I’ve had success in his schemes,” Glover said. “He likes to attack and he doesn’t care much about size. He cares about the intangibles. He wants guys who are smart and tough and who get to the football.”

When the Saints let Glover walk, he didn’t look for work long. He landed in Dallas with the Cowboys and batted four-for-four in Pro Bowl seasons with the Cowboys – culminating with his sixth trip in a row after the 2005 season – but again he was told to look for another job, this time by Cowboys coach Bill Parcells.

Glover, who had seven sacks in 2004 in a 4-3 scheme, saw his numbers drop in 2005 to three sacks when Parcells switched to a 3-4 scheme. He had asked Glover to be an undersized 3-4 nose tackle – Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams weighs 348 pounds, for example – even though Glover’s better role is as a 4-3 defensive tackle.

“Parcells likes the bigger, beefier linemen, too,” Glover said. “Football coaches are always looking for bigger and faster guys. Sometimes you’re on the plus side and sometimes you’re on the minus side.”

Glover isn’t alone among Rams players returning to San Diego. Fourth-year linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (6-2, 235), the team’s leading tackler in 2005, is from Vista High and third-year linebacker Brandon Chillar is from Carlsbad High. Both are starting outside linebackers.

“Pisa is my guy,” Glover said. “He’s fast and has great instincts. Brandon is coming along and developing into a solid linebacker.”

Glover is 2-0 in NFL homecomings, helping the Saints beat the Chargers in 2000 and the Cowboys beat the Chargers in 2005. In the 2000 game, he had two sacks on the final two plays of the game in a 28-27 New Orleans win. That was the year he led the NFL with 17 sacks.

Glover says once he hit the 10-year milestone in his NFL career he told himself he would take it one season at a time. But even if he plays another year or two, this could be the last time an NFL schedule brings him home to San Diego.

He looks forward to playing on the field he still calls Jack Murphy Stadium, where he watched Dan Fouts and the Air Coryell Chargers as a kid, played for San Diego State as an All-Western Athletic Conference pick and led Point Loma to a CIF San Diego Section 3A Division championship in 1991.

“It’ a familiar stadium where I won a high school championship and played in college,” Glover said. “It’s a chance for me to see old friends and an opportunity for my parents to watch me play.”

He loves San Diego, but he’s too large a figure in the NFL to return home yet.

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

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