When searching for an NFL player to model his game after, former Boston College tight end Tommy Sweeney did not have to look far.
Just a few miles south, in fact.
“Right down the road, Rob Gronkowski,” Sweeney said at the 2019 Senior Bowl, per Tim Twentyman of the Detroit Lions’ website. “If you watch him, he’s just unbelievable as a blocker, as well as a pass receiver.”
Inspired by Gronkowski’s prowess as both a blocker and pass catcher, Sweeney attempted to emulate the Buffalo-native throughout his four years in Chestnut Hill.
Though his production was not earth-shattering, Sweeney drew praise for being a complete tight end.
He earned praise for his ability as a blocker. Though he did not beat anybody with his straight-line speed, he often used his 6-foot-4 frame to abuse defenses underneath.
Many analysts said that Sweeney’s hands were among the best in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Though a Gronkowski-comparison may be too generous for any collegiate player, it’s one that Sweeney hopes to solidify at the professional level.
“I think Gronk’s probably the best example, just because he’s probably done the most at the highest level possible,” Sweeney told BuffaloBills.com.
“I think Jason Witten is another guy I like to model my game after. He’s a real smart tight end. He does both and knows how to get open, how to use his body. Those two, I think, I try to model my game after the most.”
If you’re going to model your game after anybody, two future-Hall of Famers are not a bad place to start.
The Buffalo Bills saw potential in Sweeney, selecting him with the 228th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The 22-year-old, who caught 99 passes for 1,281 yards and 10 touchdowns throughout his collegiate career, started communication with Buffalo at January’s Senior Bowl.
“I met with some scouts and special teams coordinator [Heath Farwell] briefly at the Senior Bowl,” Sweeney said. “It was just kind of initial stuff, getting the background, checking everything, checking all the boxes and talking about what I did in college. Kind of just what I could bring to the team and stuff like that.”
In Sweeney, the Bills are getting a high-character player, someone who will look to make an impact whenever his number is called.
“[I’m] just a willing tight end, whether it’s in the run game or the pass game or pass blocking,” Sweeney said. “Whatever is required of me, I’ll happily do it. I’ve been able to do all of that at the college level, just want to be able to do it here at the next level.”
The well-rounded tight end will be greeted by a familiar face when he arrives at One Bills Drive later this spring. Upon enrolling at Boston College in 2014, Sweeney formed a relationship with Matt Milano, a current-Buffalo linebacker who consistently lined up against Sweeney in practice.
“Matt and I are pretty close,” Sweeney said. “He was a year ahead of me [at B.C.]. He played strongside linebacker in college so we were going against each other almost every rep in practice. Off the field, we hang out.
“I’ve been able to talk to him a couple of times, he’s kind of given me a couple of pointers, a couple of nuggets on what to expect and stuff like that. He comes from a great family, his family are really good friends with my family. Obviously a great player for the Bills, and it’ll be great to have at least one familiar face up there.”
Though he’s yet to don a Bills’ uniform, Sweeney is already eager to embrace the One Buffalo mindset. Though the Ramsey, N.J.-native grew up a fan of the New York Islanders, he’s open to adding another team to his NHL allegiances.
“The Sabres, they have some guys,” Knox said. “They have some ex-Islanders, too, so I think that I might, maybe I’ll be a fan of both if that’s allowed.”
The Bills completely revamped their tight end room in the 2019 offseason, signing Tyler Kroft and Jake Fisher in free agency before selecting Sweeney and Ole Miss pass-catcher Dawson Knox in the 2019 draft.
It’s a wide-open competition, and Sweeney can’t wait to take part.
“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Sweeney said. “There’s a bunch of good guys, good, talented players. Those three guys that were there, and then Dawson and I coming in.
“Everybody’s going to be looking to help everybody. I think it’s a lot of guys with high-level talent. And it’s open. It’ll be good competition, building one another up. It’s good.”