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Roosevelt has catch to grow on ; First NFL reception excites ex-UB star

The Miami Dolphins were in a Cover 4 and the cornerback was in a soft zone. Based on the scheme, Naaman Roosevelt knew Ryan Fitzpatrick was coming to him. The hometown kid playing wide receiver for his hometown team was ready for his first NFL reception.

The stat sheet from the Buffalo Bills-Miami game reads Fitzpatrick completed a short pass to Roosevelt on the left side at the 50 for an 11-yard gain. Nothing much. A mere footnote in the Bills' 17-14 road victory. But for Roosevelt, the former St. Joe's and University at Buffalo star, it meant a lot.

Every wide receiver remembers his first catch as a pro and Roosevelt hopes for more of the same when the Bills host New England on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"To catch a ball in the NFL is definitely a great feeling and I had a lot of fun out there," Roosevelt said. "I just wanted to catch it and stay in bounds, too."

The last time Roosevelt made a catch was a little more than a calendar year. He missed the final two games of his career at UB because of injury, so his last reception in a game that counted came against Ohio University on Nov. 10, 2009.

"It was a long time, I got a little bit in the preseason but I was waiting a long time for this moment," said Roosevelt, who had a second reception for 24 yards in the third quarter. "I just want to take every opportunity I have and make the best of it. I'm excited about what's going on and being able to show what I can do."

Fitzpatrick said he trusts Roosevelt to make plays.

"The first third-down conversion, he made a nice catch [with] just a little comeback route on the outside," Fitzpatrick said. "Then, his second catch was one that is so much about timing and trust and he made a great play on that ball. He knew where I was going to put it and went up there and got it. It's really impressive for any rookie, any receiver really, to make that play."

Considering where he came from, it is an accomplishment that Roosevelt is even lining up on the field. Undrafted out of UB, Roosevelt was one of the team's final cuts after training camp but was signed to the practice squad, where he spent 12 weeks.

"For an undrafted guy that's been on the practice squad all year to step up and not only showcase his talents, but the fact that the game isn't too big for him -- he's out there and he can make plays, too," Fitzpatrick said. "I thought that was impressive."

He was eventually elevated to the 53-man roster and played on special teams in the three games prior to Miami. Roosevelt received some snaps on offense against Cleveland but when Lee Evans suffered a season-ending high-ankle sprain, that cleared the way for Roosevelt to earn more playing time.

Roosevelt said he never lost confidence while playing on the practice squad and credits receiver coach Stan Hixon for preparing him to play.

"In football things happen, injuries happen," he said. "I definitely just waited my turn and the coaches did a good job of preparing me and telling me that if things happen, I would get my opportunity. Coach Hixon has me ready for anything and he definitely did a good job with that."

When asked about Roosevelt on Monday, Bills coach Chan Gailey chuckled.

"Naaman's a fun guy to have around," Gailey said. "He's always got a smile on his face. He's always going as hard as he can go. He has a subtle quickness and subtle burst that allows him to separate from defenders. He has very good body control to be able to get his hands on some balls that maybe some other people might not be able to get their hands on."

Roosevelt had to overcome long odds before. The Connolly Cup winner wasn't recruited by a Football Bowl Subdivision program until former UB coach Turner Gill targeted him the day after he was hired. Roosevelt now holds nearly every receiving record in school history and is the career leader in all-purpose yardage.

Gailey said it will be interesting to see how much Roosevelt develops in the NFL.

"He's probably not the fastest guy out there, but he's got good attributes to be a pretty good receiver in this league," Gailey said.


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