Making an NFL roster is a dream for many aspiring pro football players, and each year there are individual stories that are easy to root for come cut down day. The Bills have a few such stories on their roster this season.
Undrafted rookie Ashlee Palmer was passed over by 32 NFL teams in the April draft, but the fast-moving linebacker had the last laugh making Buffalo's roster as one of their top six linebackers.
"I was at the hotel most of the day and they were calling some people over to the stadium to come meet them and that was one of the most nervous days of my life," said Palmer.
Despite playing what he felt was a good game in the preseason finale against Detroit, Palmer still didn't sleep a wink Friday night. But a weight was lifted when the coaching staff gave him the good news.
"The coaches came and congratulated me on making the squad and I was just ecstatic with it," he said. "It's just been a dream of mine to be on an NFL team and to play in the NFL."
With Palmer making the roster the Bills have now had at least one undrafted rookie make the opening day squad in six of the last eight seasons. Head coach Dick Jauron said the reason Palmer make the team was simple.
"Two things," said Jauron. "He ran and he hit. And that's defensive football and that's special teams, too. And he showed up doing it. We're glad it worked out that we could keep him. It's obviously harder to get him on the field on game day, but he ran and he hit people and really showed up."
And as for the teams that passed on him in the draft?
"I really don't pay too much mind to it," said Palmer. "I'm really just focused on football. There may have been some teams that felt I did not fit in their scheme. I'm just happy to be part of an organization."
The story read a bit differently for fellow linebacker Marcus Buggs. As a rookie he wasn't as fortunate as Palmer as he was waived in the Bills' final cut last season, but later signed to the practice squad. He was called up to the active roster at the midseason mark where he saw action on special teams for four games.
Entering year two Buggs was determined to take the next step and make the 53-man roster. But halfway through OTAs in the spring, Buggs was switched from the outside to middle linebacker. It made his goal a bit harder to reach with a flood of new responsibilities as the defensive quarterback for the second unit.
In the end however, Buggs made it work.
"I can tell you I was happy about it," said a grinning Buggs. "I was very excited, but I'm trying to approach it the same way I did last year and stay calm with it and go out and work hard."
The last thing Buggs is going to do is rest on his laurels after making his late position switch work in his favor instead of against him. Making a 53-man roster was a major goal for him, but now he's hoping to reach some others as well knowing how hard job security is to come by in the NFL.
"This is my second year in the NFL and hopefully the second of many years in the NFL," Buggs said."I'm just going to come out and work hard and next offseason it will be time to go back at it again."
For Xavier Omon the deck looked stacked against him. With Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and veteran Dominic Rhodes ahead of him on the depth chart, getting reps, let alone a spot on the 53-man roster was not a lock.
But Omon doubled his efforts in the offseason from that of a year ago. He shed 10 pounds, was lighter and quicker and made a great first impression in the Hall of Fame game. So much so that the veteran Rhodes was suddenly expendable in the eyes of the coaching staff leaving just Omon and Jackson as the only true backs on the roster while Lynch serves his suspension.
"I was a little bit surprised," said Omon of the Rhodes' release. "I feel it says a lot. Hopefully it says that they're trusting me and that they're going to give me an opportunity to prove myself and hopefully it shows that I worked hard in the offseason and that I've earned this opportunity and can do something with it."
In one year Omon went from inactive running back to Fred Jackson's understudy in the season opener on Monday night at New England where he is likely to see carries.
"I know I'm ready to do it," Omon said. "I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time and it's finally here so I have to take advantage of it."