ORCHARD PARK, NY - The Buffalo Billsbegan their rookie mini camp today. Along with the players they drafted last month, there aretwenty one free agents who were invited to attend on a tryout basis.
As the Bills search for diamonds in the rough, there is one who was already shining before he ever arrived at Orchard Park, and whose internet followers view as a real gem.
Like several of them, Quarterback Alex Tanneyplayed college ball at a school you probably never heard of.
But unlike the others, he's already famous... thanks to a YouTube video which went viral, with more than 2-million views and counting.
It shows Tanney, who played at tiny Monmouth Collegein Illinois, doing amazing things that even an all-promight be hard pressed to do.
Launching balls with the accuracy of a William Tell fired arrow, knocking objects off the heads of willing volunteers... calling his shot and then firing a pass hitting a goal post from 50 yards (while on his knee), swishing a football through a basketball net from full court distance, completing passes out a window to a receiver in a passing vehicle, and another on a go route in a speeding pickup truck.
Undrafted rookie free agents are generally long shots to realize their dream of making it in the NFL.
Increasingthe odds even more againstTanney, is that he played at a Division Three school, on a team of non-scholarship athletes.
But he's more than a trick shot artist.
And while he'd like to be known better for those feats, he understands he's more widely recognized for the trick shot video.
"I accept it because I'm the one who posted it," said Tanney after his first practice with his fellow rookies. "But I'm here to play football, not throw trick shots."
Tanney said the video was not intended to try and gain attention for himself as a small school star who might otherwise not have gotten a look. "It was really just me and my friends fooling around," he said.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey said Tanney did as well as could be expected for a rookie quarterback on his first day at mini-camp. "The first day is hard for any quarterback...but he did some good things," Gailey said, noting Tanney's "quick motion" and "strong arm" in particular. Gailey made no mention of Tanney's accuracy.
Gailey also said that he has still not seen the internet video which has drawn so much attention to Tanney, and that the only video he has seen of him, and the only video which drew his interest, were game films of Tanney playing, as Gailey put it, "real football".
"It felt good to be out there. I'm just trying to pick up as much as I can to learn the offense," Tanney said.
WereTanney to make the Bills roster after playing at the D-3 level, it would be a rare thing indeed.
Rare, but not unprecedented. And when it comes to the Bills, he'd be in some good company.
Fred Jackson, who lead the Bills in rushing for the past three seasons, was a D-3 player from Iowa's Coe College, Former Bills linebacker London Fletcher played at John Carrol in Ohio, and Pete Metzelaars, a star tight end in those glorious superbowl years (and who recently returned to the team as an assistant coach) went to Wabash in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bill Boyer