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As He Did on the Field, Scribner Answers Call : After Careers With UCLA and Rams, He Finds His Life's Work as a Pastor in Santa Monica

Where Are They Now: Rob Scribner

July 10, 1993|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

That wasn't his last position switch. In 1971, Prothro left to coach the Rams, and Pepper Rodgers took over at UCLA. The new coach penciled Scribner for a spot in the defensive alignment that didn't appeal to the junior.

"He moved me to cornerback," Scribner said. "They (coaches) knew I had played quarterback, but they didn't let me try out for it."

His wish for an opportunity to quarterback the Bruin wishbone attack became reality the following season, when Scribner and Mark Harmon battled on even terms for the job during spring drills. But Scribner, who was a world-class center on the UCLA rugby team, pulled a hamstring playing the game in New Zealand and didn't recover in time to challenge Harmon.

Still, Scribner contributed substantially in a backup role. In a 37-7 victory over Oregon State at Corvallis, he rushed for a career-high 156 yards in eight carries after relieving Harmon in the second half. The following week at Berkeley, Scribner carried 13 times for 101 yards in a 49-13 victory over Cal. He finished the season with 498 yards rushing, third-best on the team behind Kermit Johnson and James McAlister, and was fourth in total offense with 577 yards.

"Rob was a fierce competitor," said John Sciarra, the former Bruin quarterback and now manager of the Dun & Bradstreet Pension Services divisions in Los Angeles and Newport Beach. "He didn't have great speed. If Rob would have been a 4.5 guy, he would have been a phenom. . . . If you are in a foxhole with somebody, he's the kind of guy you want in there with you."

But apparently not the kind of guy Rodgers wanted in the game against USC that year. Watching helplessly on the sidelines at the Coliseum as the Trojans beat UCLA, 24-7, wounded Scribner so deeply he still refuses to talk much about Rodgers.

"Before the game, Rodgers told me I would play half the game," Scribner said. "It was my senior season, against our big rivals, and I didn't play one snap. It was a real disappointing time for me in football. It's right up there."

If his last college game was a downer, making the Rams was a high. And a shocker.

Although not drafted by an NFL team, Scribner was approached as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys and the Rams, who were still firmly entrenched in the Coliseum. He peeked at both rosters and figured his chances were better in Los Angeles.

"The Cowboys called me and said they would give me a $500 signing bonus," Scribner said. "Then (Ram general manager Don) Klosterman calls me and says he'll give me $500. The Cowboys were loaded so I decided to try out for the Rams, to see if I could make it at running back or the taxi squad."

At 6 feet and 200 pounds, and despite running no better than 4.9 in the 40 yards in training camp, Scribner nevertheless landed a spot with the Rams. It surprised him and his wife.

"I didn't think I could play pro ball, to be honest," Scribner said. "When I told my wife I made the taxi squad, she said she didn't think I was good enough."

He wasn't All-Pro, but he wasn't All-Bad, either. Scribner played on five NFC West championship teams with the Rams, mostly on special teams and with limited action at running back. His best game was against Green Bay in 1975, when he gained 82 yards in 12 carries and scored a touchdown in a 22-5 victory.

"Rob Scribner was one of my all-time great guys," said Ram Coach Chuck Knox, who was in his first go-around with the club in the early '70s. "He was a tremendous achiever who brought everything he had to the field."

An ankle injury that required surgery in early 1977 slowed him, and the Rams released him after the season. Scribner then had a brief and unsuccessful tryout in 1978 with the Philadelphia Eagles before becoming the color commentator on the replay telecasts of UCLA football games for five years.

He also continued to work onmanaging pension plans for clients in a business partnership that included Sciarra.

Soon after, however, his life was headed in a somewhat unexpected direction.

In 1977, as his pro athletic career was winding down, Scribner faced not only the adjustment of life away from sports for the first time in many years, but also a serious personal struggle.

His wife developed a swollen optic nerve in her right eye that Scribner says somehow baffled doctors. She consulted numerous ophthalmologists who couldn't find the problem. At one point, he says, they even contemplated removing the eye.

"We already belonged to this church and we began to pray for her," Scribner said. "Through some miraculous circumstances, her eye was healed. We realized then there was a supernatural element to Christianity that I had not been aware of growing up."

Another turning point for Scribner came in 1981, when the couple attended a Bible conference in Prescott, Ariz.

"There was an enthusiastic relationship with God there as opposed to just religion," Scribner said. "They elevated the calling of a pastor to a level that was very appealing. I was really moved."

Two years later, Scribner, by then an elder at the church, decided to become a pastor and in 1984 was sent to pioneer a church in Pacific Palisades. He also jumped into the political arena, challenging incumbent Mel Levine (D-South Bay) for the 27th congressional district in 1984 and 1986. Scribner lost both elections.

After three years in Pacific Palisades, where the family still lives, Scribner returned to the Lighthouse Church when the pastor there resigned.

"The congregation asked me to pastor," Scribner said. "It was a very rocky time. It was a very difficult time holding things together. I just became more and more involved over the years. In '91, I made the decision to stay here for good. I've found something I'm willing to give my life to."

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