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Web star casts lot with Bills

As of Saturday afternoon, nearly 2.3 million people had watched "trick shot" quarterback Alex Tanney's YouTube video.

Chan Gailey wasn't one of them.

Social media's not high on the priority list for the Buffalo Bills' coach, but Gailey saw enough other video of Tanney to give the Division III product from Monmouth (Ill.) College a tryout during the team's three-day rookie minicamp.

"I had never seen the video. Still haven't, by the way. The video I saw was football and that I heard about was football," Gailey said.

"The video" refers to a five-minute compilation put together by Tanney in February 2011 that's become a viral sensation (check the BillBoard blog on buffalonews.com to watch it).

Each throw is more ridiculous than the next. Tanney on the field, hitting each one of the uprights from the 50-yard line. Tanney in the gym, swishing a football through each basket at the opposite end. Tanney in his living room, throwing out his window right to a buddy -- who's in the back of a moving pickup truck -- for a completion.

"We didn't expect it to blow up. It was just me and my buddies having some fun after working out," Tanney said.

Given the video's popularity, it's easy to understand how Tanney's looked at as "that trick shot guy."

He insists the video wasn't put together to get him noticed, though.

"I grew up around the game. I've been playing quarterback since [I was] a little kid so I've never done stuff like that before. It was just spur of the moment and it took off," he said.

Tanney's eye-popping numbers at Monmouth suggest he shouldn't be overlooked. He threw for 157 touchdowns in his four-year career -- the most of any player at any level in the history of college football. His 14,249 passing yards are also a Division III career record. In 2009, he won the Melberger Award, given to the best Division III athlete in any sport.

At 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, he's also got ideal size for the position.

He hopes all those things get him noticed.

"Everybody gives me grief about the video, but I just accept it, I guess, since I posted it. It went viral and there's nothing I can do. I'm here to play football, not throw trick shots," Tanney said.

After his first workout Friday, Gailey offered the following assessment: "He did some good things. First day for any quarterback is hard. I don't care who you are, but he did some good things. I like his quick throwing motion. He seems to have a strong arm. He seemed to pick up things fairly well."

Tanney overcame some hardships in his college career. In the second game of the 2010 season, he injured the AC joint in his shoulder. He applied for and received a medical hardship, which allowed him to come back in 2011 to play a full senior year. He made the most of it, completing more than 70 percent of his passes for nearly 4,000 yards and 38 touchdowns in an All-America season.

In 47 college games, his completion percentage was 68.6 -- which helps explain how he can throw a football from a seated position through a weight room into a garbage can.

In preparing for the next step in his career, Tanney worked with former NFL quarterback Chad Pennington at the TEST Football Academy in Boca Raton, Fla.

"Coach Pennington's really helped me out during the process," Tanney said. "He kind of teaches the same things that [Bills quarterbacks] coach [David] Lee preaches. That was kind of a jump start. He's really helped me out and I've been in contact with him throughout the entire process."

Tanney, 23, chose to accept the Bills' tryout invitation over one from the Pittsburgh Steelers in part because of his previous interactions with Lee.

The Bills also do not have a developmental quarterback on the roster. Friday's signing of Vince Young will not change that. Young is expected to compete with Tyler Thigpen for the No. 2 job behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, and it would be a surprise if the team kept the loser of that battle on the roster.

"That's all I wanted was an opportunity to come to camp, and I've been given that," Tanney said.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com