Deeply rooted -- entreched even -- in the city of Buffalo and it's surrounding suburbs, former Williamsville South and University at Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata was well-adjusted to the look-and-feel of One Bills Drive in Orchard Park -- but it was never as an actual member of the professional franchise.
Even if it was as a tryout player at the team's rookie minicamp, Licata got the chance to take the field at the NFL level with his hometown Buffalo Bills.
"It was cool being out there walking out into this fieldhouse," Licata said Friday, after the team's first rookie minicamp session. "I’ve been in here hundreds of times throughout high school and then in college, but once you put the helmet on, it’s football. It’s not a dream anymore, it’s reality. It’s getting to work and really studying the playbook, and really getting out there with the guys."
Licata went undrafted after four successful and highly productive seasons at UB, and then went unsigned during the undrafted free agent frenzy. The Bills, in need of another arm for rookie minicamp, and with a potential roster spot available, made the call to get Licata in their facilities for a three-day stay.
But, the workman-like approach from the Wililamsville-native helped him keep perspective -- even if this is what he's been working his entire life towards.
"I mean it was cool seeing the helmet with ‘Licata’ on it with the Bills logo on it, but once I got past that really, it’s just football at this point," the quarterback said.
Licata didn't only get the attention of the local media who came to know him and his story over both his high school and college careers. He's grabbing the attention of a player that both the Bills and their fans are holding out hope with.
"You’re saying his whole name like I don’t know him," said quarterback Cardale Jones when asked about Licata. "He’s in the frigging quarterback room with me."
Jones, the fourth-round pick and project quarterback, even went on to say that he was using Licata as an example during rookie minicamp.
"Just from the one or two days I’ve been with him, already, he’s extremely smart. He’s a hard-worker, a competitor or he wouldn’t be here," Jones said. "He’s good, man. He catches on to coaching quick. A couple of things I was struggling with — and maybe it’s just his experience with being under center a lot last year in his school — but a couple of things he was doing. Coach Lee was like ‘Hey, do it like this,’ but, I was like looking at Joe at how to do it, ‘Okay, coach,’ looking at Joe."
Licata will certainly have to stand out during the final two days of his tryout, but there is a spot available on the Bills' roster.
"It’s just a great opportunity for me, so that’s what it comes down to," Licata said.