The Bills continued their process of adding undrafted college free agents to their roster signing six on Thursday. One of them is a Buffalo native that starred at the University at Buffalo.
Bulls all-time leading receiver Naaman Roosevelt was signed along with Wayne State RB Joique Bell, Howard University DE Will Croner, Tulsa CB John Destin, Texas A&M-Kingsville G Jorge Guerra and Virginia Tech CB Stephan Virgil.
For Roosevelt signing with his hometown team was something truly special, though he admits it hasn’t fully sunk in at this point.
“It was definitely a dream since I was playing in little league,” Roosevelt told Buffalobills.com. “I wanted to get to the NFL and be a part of an NFL team. It’s crazy growing up watching the Buffalo Bills and having my family love the Bills and now just to be a part of them is unbelievable. It probably won’t hit me until I step onto the practice field.”
Roosevelt played his high school ball at St. Joe’s as a quarterback before transitioning to wide receiver at UB.
“He had a really productive career,” said Bills Coordinator of College Scouting Doug Majeski. “The best thing he does with the football is run with it. He has a lot of production when the ball is in his hands. He’s quick up field, he’s got vision as a runner and he makes yards.”
“Starting off in college playing kick returner and punt returner that helped me in developing the ability to get to open space and make plays,” Roosevelt said.
Roosevelt (6’0” 189) started 41-of-49 games played at Buffalo where he holds school records in receptions (268), receiving yards (3,551), touchdown catches (28) and all-purpose yards (5,341). In 2008, Roosevelt set the school’s single-season receiving records with 104 catches for 1,402 yards and 13 touchdowns. He earned All-Mid-American Conference first-team honors his last two seasons with the Bulls.
“He was their go-to receiver,” said Majeski. “He made a few more big plays his junior year, not as much his senior year, but still he was a very productive receiver for them.”
Roosevelt, who actually had his pro day in the Bills Fieldhouse this past spring, is expected to start working with the Bills as a boundary receiver outside when Rookie Minicamp begins next week.
“I definitely didn’t think about my chances of playing for the Bills at the time,” said Roosevelt of his pro day. “I knew there might be a chance though because Buffalo needed receivers, so it’s definitely a good thing.”
Knowing he’ll have the entire Western New York community pulling for him, Roosevelt is appreciative, but knows his work is only just beginning.
“Having the whole community supporting me will be nice, but I don’t want to disappoint,” he said.
“So hopefully I can show what I can do.”
The Bills also landed Wayne State’s all-time leading rusher Joique Bell. A Senior Bowl invitee, Bell rushed for over 6,700 yards in his four-year career and earned Division II Player of the Year honors in 2009 after a season in which he accumulated 2,084 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns.
“He has strength and very good balance and he’s a tackle breaker,” said Bills scout Brian Fisher. “That’s what you like about him, his ability to absorb contact or spin out of tackles. Where a lot of guys are about to lose their feet, he can take hits even with a narrow base and continue on. He’s a skilled between the tackles runner. You like his feel. He can sense creases and locate lanes.”
Bell had a pair of 2,000-yard rushing seasons in his college career. This past season he led all four NCAA divisions in rushing yards per game (189.45), scoring (17.5 points per game) and all-purpose yards (217.5 per game). But he offers more than just inside running.
“He’s a guy that can contribute in the passing game. He’s aware in blitz pickup,” said Fisher. “He’ll battle you and he catches the ball very well. He’s a guy with the toughness and run skill that we feel can come in and definitely compete for a spot.”
Howard DE Will Croner was a productive defender for the Bison posting 64 tackles with 11.5 stops for a loss and 3.5 sacks in 2009 earning him All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honors.
“He’s a five technique for us,” said Bills scout Tom Roth. “Croner’s a strong player that plays with good leverage and he plays hard. He’s a try-hard guy that is tough and physical. He can hold the point of attack.”
The 6-2, 280 pound defensive end transferred to Howard from Lackawanna Junior College in 2008.
Tulsa cornerback John Destin was another junior college transfer, but was a two-year starter for the Golden Hurricane and led the team in interceptions in 2009 with four.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed player,” said Bills scout Shawn Heinlen. “He’s physical in run support and gives it everything he has. He’s coming along as far as technique goes, but had a great workout and ran in the 4.4s. He has a lot of ability. He just needs some time on the job.”
Destin (5’11”, 191) was a member of the Golden Hurricanes’ back-to-back GMAC Bowl wins in 2008 and 2009.
Offensive lineman Jorge Guerra was a four-year starter at Texas A&M-Kingsville, where he earned Lone Star Conference South Division second-team honors in 2009.
“Jorge is a multiple position guy,” said Heinlen. “He played left tackle for Kingsville, but he’ll play inside for us and be a swing center-guard player. A really smart kid, really tough and really strong. He’s a little undersized for tackle, but inside with his toughness and ability he should develop into a multiple spot backup guy for us.”
The 6-3, 300-pound lineman helped the Javelinas advanced to the conference championship game as well as an appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2009.
Cornerback Stephan Virgil’s draft stock was hurt by injury his senior year. Suffering a knee injury in the first game of the year, Virgil missed only two games and returned for the rest of his senior season before having the knee scoped after the season.
“He’s a nickel candidate that’s more quick than fast,” said Roth. “He’s just a tough and aggressive corner. He competes hard.”
Virgil (5’11” 183) had a very productive junior season in 2008 tying for the team lead in interceptions with six while contributing 43 tackles. Despite playing hurt in 2009 he still led all defensive backs with six tackles for loss and is a reliable open field tackler. Blessed with strong hands, quick feet, good balance and ball skills, Virgil could surprise.
“Even though his production wasn’t the same his senior year he’s still a good player,” said Roth. “He’s a heck of a free agent signing.”