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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tait

Tait: Fine gets a shot with Bills

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Former Kansas University tight end Derek Fine did not have to dump much of his KU gear when he joined the NFL last April.

Thanks to the Buffalo Bills selecting him with one of their two fourth-round picks (No. 132 overall), Fine still wears red and blue to work.

Through rookie camp, off-season training activities, minicamp and the preseason, the Jayhawk some saw as a longshot to get drafted, has managed to stick with the Bills. The two-time KU captain officially signed a contract with Buffalo on June 25. Since then, he's done nothing but impress while fighting for a roster spot with the team famous for losing Super Bowls.

Of the four KU players selected in last year's NFL Draft - Fine, Anthony Collins, Marcus Henry and Aqib Talib - Fine's story might be the most interesting.

Collins and Talib were blessed with All-American talent. Henry was given all-world speed and employed a strong work ethic to figure out how to use it. Fine was blessed with All-American heart.

"He's a guy that, all four years he was at Kansas, played on special teams," Buffalo special teams coordinator Bobby April told the team's Web site. "I saw him play so I know what he can do, and he's fantastic. I think he's a good tight end and he's going to play tight end, but we put an investment in him because I think he's going to be a knock-down, drag-out special teamer."

Pro Bowl rosters save a spot for special-teams standouts, so a trip to Honolulu could be in Fine's future.

Listed on the Bills' depth chart as the third-string tight end, Fine faces an uphill battle for playing time at that position. That hill became steeper recently when Fine injured the thumb on his left hand while making a tackle during a preseason game. Doctors told Fine he could miss up to five weeks. He's not planning on being out that long.

"Hopefully, it will be sooner than that," Fine said. "I want to get back as fast as possible. It's just a stinkin' thumb. I can tough this out."

Therein lies the attitude that defined D. Fine during his days in Lawrence, and the reason he went from relative unknown to NFL contributor in just a couple of years.

Fine's not the only member of the 2008 Orange Bowl championship squad expected to contribute in the NFL this season, which gets going tonight when the New York Giants take on the Washington Redskins.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers picked Talib with their first-round pick (20th) and their latest depth chart has Talib - now wearing No. 25 - penciled in as a second-string cornerback behind Pro Bowlers Phillip Buchanon and Ronde Barber.

Collins, a fourth-round pick of Cincinnati, is listed as the Bengals' back-up left tackle, and the 6-foot-4 Henry is listed on the New York Jets' depth chart as one of seven wide receivers for newly acquired QB Brett Favre.

Comments

Ryan Gerstner 10 years, 11 months ago

Last I had heard, Talib was the starting nickel back.

MitchumMan 10 years, 11 months ago

Did anyone see the Rookie Special on ESPN2 the other night? They had brief specials on various rookies this year in the NFL. Aquib was one of those lucky few that were chosen. He's going to be a Pro Bowl guy for sure some day. And you should have seen his face when he had to guard Randy Moss. He looked like a kid in a candy store.

loneoakks 10 years, 11 months ago

Great reflection on the status of the program when guys are making a mark in the NFL. Helps build the reputation of KU football as being legitimate.Nice article, although, journalistic integrity seems tarnished when a local reporter isn't aware of the correct name spelling of a 2 time team captain.

Matt Tait 10 years, 11 months ago

Thanks for pointing that out.... Complete oversight on my part, as I meant to change it before it ran but got caught up working on another story involving Fine and overlooked it. No good excuse, but I thought I'd let ya know why it happened.As for that other story, check tomorrow's paper - or web site - for a feature on what it takes to be a captain in Coach Mangino's program, complete with thoughts from Derek Fine and other former captains.

KGphoto 10 years, 11 months ago

Starting nickel back is basically second string. Your the third guy.Great to see Fine doing well. I watched a rerun of a couple games on FSN the other day. He was literally in on every tackle on special teams. Many of them solos.In Cincinnati, they're calling Collins a "bear". Everybody sees him as a future pro bowler.Wouldn't it be great is Henry found some magic chemistry with Favre and he turned into the next Greg Jennings. It could happen.

Bleacherbutt 10 years, 11 months ago

"Collins and Talib were blessed with All-American talent. Henry was given all-world speed and employed a strong work ethic to figure out how to use it. Fine was blessed with All-American heart.has managed to stick with the Bills. Listed on the Bills' depth chart as the third-string tight end, Fine faces an uphill battle for playing time at that position. "I guess this is an opinion column. I thank you for your assessment of his heart but feel you insinuate he is lacking in other departments. I don't believe he would be in the NFL without talent and work ethic. The items about the uphill battle & managed to stick---is that substantiated or purely opinion? What was the basis for that opinion? It would be nice to see a quote or the reasoning for your opinion. I really think you meant this to be positive but the lurking negative innuendoes overwhelmed me.

railer1122 10 years, 11 months ago

haha wow you're right. It's Derek. But he was a good player with a great attitude.

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