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Asper, Sanders did scouting of their own

Posted May 10, 2012

Late in the draft the Bills are always looking for players that can offer some versatility. Prospects who are capable of making contributions at more than one position. Offensive linemen Zebrie Sanders and Mark Asper might be the two best examples in this year’s draft class, and both coincidentally share an upbringing that caters to being resourceful.

Both Sanders and Asper achieved the rank of Eagle scout in the Boy Scouts of America program. The two got into scouting at an early age and with the support of their parents reached the pinnacle of the community service discipline.

“I think it helped me out a lot because it taught me hard work and determination and drive and just getting something done,” said Sanders. “That helped me become a better man, using teamwork, explaining things and learning how to follow and lead. It helped me on the football field when I stepped into college.”

“Looking back now I realize there are lots of things I know how to do now that come from scouting,” said Asper. “When I first got to college there’d be things my teammates would see me do. And they’d ask me, ‘How’d you know how to do that?’ And I’d say, ‘I’m an Eagle scout.’”

On one occasion during his college days at Oregon, Asper and his teammates were bothered by a leaky sink in the locker room. Annoyed by the hissing of the leaking water, Asper decided he would just take care of it.
 
“I went in there and crawled under the sink, cut the water supply off,” he said. “I got a towel and wrapped it around the joint that was loose and tightened the joint that was loose and tightened it and turned the water back on. Some of my teammates were like, ‘Asper, what are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Fixing the sink.’ And they said, ‘Where did you learn to do that?’ I told them how my scoutmaster was a plumber and the first merit badge you got was the plumbing merit badge.”

To reach the level of Eagle scout, one has to organize and execute a community service effort of some kind. Sanders, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio, traveled with his parents on a mission to New Mexico and set up an after school sports camp on a Navajo Native American reservation.

“It was a three-day camp for kids to take advantage of after school since they didn’t have much to do,” Sanders said. “It was like an after school care program, but sports oriented.”

Asper gave back to a youth camp that he enjoyed during his grade school years.

“There was a long tradition of people that would go to that camp,” said Asper. “I noticed that the rooms and some of the stairs and cement work were in disrepair. So for my Eagle project I got a bunch of guys to go up there and tore the old cement up and pulled it out and poured new stairs and sidewalks and tore the old roof off and put a new roof on.”

How both players applied some of their lessons in scouting to their college football careers was by way of adapting to changing circumstances.

Sanders had played mostly right tackle for Florida State, but when teammate and left tackle Andrew Datko went down with an injury he had to move to the blind side. Reversing one’s feet and techniques to play on the opposite side is sometimes easier said than done, but Sanders proved capable enough to convince the Bills he has potential as a swing tackle.

“That’s always encouraging when you can see that a young man can do more than one thing and doesn’t get flustered by it,” said Bills offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris of Sanders. “He can handle the physical part of it and the mental part of it. That’s always an asset.”

The situation was similar for Asper. Playing mostly guard and tackle in his time at Oregon, the Bills see Asper as a center-guard possibility. One main reason why is because he volunteered to play center at a postseason all-star game this past winter.

“I figured it would be good for something,” said Asper of lining up in the middle. “Coming away from that I felt it was a lot of fun to play center, and hopefully if I get asked to play center some day that experience will carry over.

“When coach Gailey told me they were thinking about using me as a guard-center combo and I thought, ‘Alright I’m glad I know how to play there.’”

“We watched him as a guard and then I found out that he played center in one of the NFL Players bowl game or all-star game and I watched him there and he did a really nice job as a center,” said D’Alessandris. “I think that’s a new position for him, but I think he looks very comfortable.”

So Sanders and Asper are not only equipped to handle the step up that the NFL will be, they’re accustomed to adapting to whatever role they might be handed as well.

“My dad was a scout leader so whenever I had problems or tough times and he’d set me straight so that was good for me,” said Sanders. “He told me whatever I start I need to finish.”

“You have to be versatile and able to do anything,” said Asper. “I have that mindset going into it and figure coming out of it I will make it pay off.”