The Ferragamos miss their disposal, but not the Rams’ management
July 4. It was a perfect opportunity for Vince Ferragamo. Back home, his old Los Angeles Ram teammates were still vacationing, celebrating the holiday. He was up in Vancouver making his own declaration of independence by playing quarterback in his first game for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. The results, however, were nothing to shoot skyrockets about. Ferragamo completed just 13 of 30 passes and threw two interceptions. British Columbia beat Montreal 48-8. The French Canadians have a word for that kind of debut: “Boo.”
Fortunately, Ferragamo is not the worrying kind. “There’s such a fine line between winning and losing in professional sports,” he says. “If you second-guess yourself, the play’s going to turn out bad.”
Ferragamo had performed admirably in the Rams’ 31-19 loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV. Then in 1980 he was voted the Rams’ most valuable player. But Ferragamo had been relatively unspectacular at the University of Nebraska, and signed his first contract with the club in 1977 for three years at a modest $47,500 per. L.A. is said to have offered $300,000 a season starting in 1981, but Ferragamo decided to shop around.
Montreal, anxious to bolster sagging attendance, offered him a reported $400,000 a year for two to four years (at his option). He also is believed to get a slice of every ticket the Alouettes sell over 40,000 for each home game in their 60,000-seat Olympic stadium. Au revoir, Los Angeles.
The adjustments haven’t been easy. With 12 men to a side, only three downs and a 110-yard field, Canadian football is not the game Vince played while becoming what the Alouettes’ hyperbole calls “the best quarterback on the continent.” After the Alouettes’ disastrous opener, however, Ferragamo engineered a last-minute drive to produce a 23-22 victory in their second game and then passed for 353 yards in a 33-31 loss to Ottawa. “By the fourth or fifth game,” asserts Montreal coach Joe Scannella, “he’s gonna be where he belongs. He is a great talent.”
Adjusting off the field hasn’t been easy either. Though they are living in West Island, a predominantly English-speaking Montreal suburb, both Ferragamo and his wife, Jodi, are studying French. Jodi misses the dishwasher, garbage disposal and double sink they have in their Irvine, Calif. home, where they still intend to spend the off-season.
Vince grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Wilmington, youngest of four children in a close-knit Italian family. His father was a union representative at the local Ford plant, and brother Chris was Vince’s high school football coach. At Nebraska, he met Jodi Scarpello, daughter of a former Olympic wrestler. He also built a 3.6 grade average with a premed curriculum. (He has since continued his studies off season at Creighton University Medical School.)
In football, Ferragamo made some All-America teams as a senior, but it wasn’t until starting Ram quarterback Pat Haden was hurt during the 1979 season that he played regularly in the NFL.
Acclaim and endorsement offers came rolling in. Though he filmed commercials for Sasson jeans and Campbell’s soup, he turned down ads for panty hose and baby oil, as well as guest shots on Fantasy Island and Laverne & Shirley. “I had to be a little careful about my image,” he explains.
There were other kinds of temptations too, but Jodi has long since got used to them. “I’d be in the hospital,” she has said, “if I got nervous every time a girl looked at him.” Ferragamo’s career decision and earlier contract disputes with the Rams and ex-agent Paul Caruso seemed a more serious strain on the couple’s relationship. “What Joe Shmo thinks when he reads the paper doesn’t matter to me,” Jodi says. “I knew if Vince was yelling at me it wasn’t really feelings he had toward me—it was leftover, outside stuff. If we weathered that, we can weather anything.”
His endorsement money has fallen off in Canada (though Vince may do a shaving commercial). Ferragamo has also heard those jeers from Montreal fans out for instant gratification. Warns Los Angeles general manager Don Klosterman, who himself jumped the Rams for the Canadian Football League in 1955: “Vince is going to end up frustrated. His decision to leave Los Angeles was not a two-, three-or four-year decision. It’s a 20-year decision.”
So far Ferragamo is undiscouraged. “I wish the Rams well this season,” he says. “But I’m not going to have any regrets about coming here.”