All QB Alex Tanney wanted was "an opportunity to get into a camp" and, thanks to the Buffalo Bills, he now has that chance.
When you're from a small, Division III school like Monmouth College, located in western Illinois and home to only 1400 or so undergraduate students, sometimes a player will have to do something special to get noticed. Sure, Tanney may have set the all-time Division III record for yardage by a QB (14,429) and he may also hold the overall NCAA record for touchdown passes (157 in 5 seasons, with only 30 INTs), but when your toughest divisional opponents are schools like Albany and Duquesne, a little extra may be required to get some love.
Thank God for the Internet. See, the 6'4", 220 lb Tanney became somewhat of an online celebrity off the field last year when he posted a trick shot video on YouTube. The piece exploded on the Net, racked up over 2,000,000 views, and not only gave the unknown Tanney the nickname "Trick Shot QB", but also put him on the radar of NFL scouts around the country (as well as getting him a spot on the History Channel's "Stan Lee's Superhumans"). In the video, Tanney threw at and hit the crossbar from one knee on the 40 yd line, blindly tossed balls into trash cans through windows and across weight rooms, and swished hoop after hoop throwing footballs all over a basketball court.
Though he may not have the polish and poise of prospects who played in Division I programs, you can't argue with the raw talent and dead-eye accuracy on display in that video. It was enough to get Tanney an invite from the Pittsburgh Steelers to come to their training camp and though he accepted it at first, he was quick to change his mind when the Bills got back to him.
I know, I was shocked, too. When you have a dynasty like the Steelers, a perennial Super Bowl contender, looking to recruit you, most would simply jump at the chance and not consider offers after that, but something about the Bills got Tanney's attention. Maybe it was the fact that he felt he had a better chance getting a shot with Buffalo, or maybe he got caught up in the tidal wave of possibility (and, dare I say, hope?) that seems to be building in the Queen City (I sure have), but Alex firmly declared that he wanted to be with the Bills over the Steelers and will be reporting for rookie training camp in Western New York this month. In truth, the Bills and quarterback coach David Lee contacted Tanney even before the Draft, then brought him in on the first day of camp to see if the guy throwing in the video was as accurate in person. Turns out, he was, as he several times dropped perfect throws right on target (though without any defenders in his face, of course), impressing the Bills enough to offer him his chance at the pros.
If the video is any indication, Tanney brings more than just his 69% completion and three Midwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year awards; he also brings a youthful exuberance and aggressive desire to impress. Alex grew up wanting to be an NFL quarterback, nursing that hope during his years playing in anonymity at Lexington High School and then at Monmouth, and will now, thanks to Buffalo, get the chance to see if he can overcome the prejudices associated with small school football programs and perhaps become a true player in the NFL. According to Alex, "I've had a chip on my shoulder basically throughout... coming from small schools and wanting to prove to people what I have. I'm anxious to get out to Buffalo and see what I can do there."
Sounds like almost every player on the Bills roster this year, doesn't it? Seems Buddy Nix is actually succeeding in gathering a group of players who believe they can win in Buffalo red and blue, a feeling that hasn't exactly thrived there in the last few years (decades). Once seen as a dying franchise, a place for players to go at the tail end of their careers to get one last good paycheck before it's over (see T.O., Drew Bledsoe, and Lawyer Malloy), Buffalo has done wonders this year flipping the notion that they're a group of losers and Tanney's decision to come join the Bills is just another example of that change.
Win or lose in 2012, you've at least got to admit that, for the first time in years, there's some buzz and excitement about being a fan of the Buffalo Bills (and now, with the addition of Vince Young and Alex Tanney this week, some much needed depth at the quarterback position). Now, let's see how that translates on the field come September.
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