A pair of University at Buffalo football players with local ties will get an opportunity to continue their careers at the next level.
Quarterback Joe Licata has accepted an invitation from the Buffalo Bills to participate in a tryout at the team’s upcoming rookie minicamp, while left tackle John Kling will sign as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears.
Additionally, UB tight end has accepted an invitation to a rookie minicamp tryout with the Washington Redskins.
Licata, a Williamsville South product, threw for 9,485 yards and 76 touchdowns in 3 1/2 years as UB’s starter.
Getting an opportunity to realize his dream of playing in the NFL with his hometown team
“It’s all about getting my foot in the door at this point,” he said. “The dream is still alive. I grew up a Bills fan and have been a season-ticket holder. Realistically, getting this opportunity anywhere was going to be awesome, but growing up here, staying home for college, there’s no question it makes it even more special.”
Months of training in the offseason had an air of uncertainty for Licata. He knew why he was working out, but he didn’t know what the payoff would be. Now, he does.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” he said. “Even with all that training and hard work, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s a rollercoaster.”
He also knows the odds are stacked against him. The odds of making the NFL as an undrafted free agent are miniscule. Going from being a tryout player to a 53-man roster, then, is like holding a winning Powerball ticket.
Licata, however, isn’t worried about that right now.
“I’m just going to work extremely hard,” he said when asked what he has to do to impress the Bills. “Get my nose in the playbook and try to show them what I can do.
“I wouldn’t be going somewhere if I didn’t feel like it was a fair opportunity, which is all I’ve ever wanted.”
Kling, who trained with Licata at STA Sports Performance in Elma leading up to the draft, was after the same thing.
He called the Bears a “great opportunity.”
“There were a couple teams that called” after the draft, “ but the Bears were one of the first, so that’s where I went.”
Asked to describe what Saturday was like, King used words like nervous, emotional and exciting. He watched the draft with family, and as it neared its end, anxiety set in.
But after his agent called?
“The whole vibe went from nervous to excited,” he said. “All I can say is I’m blessed.”
Licata, Kling and Weiser can all take solace in the fact that once the helmets go on, there are no labels displaying how a player was acquired.
“Everyone’s going to have the same opportunity when we get to camp,” Kling said. “Just put the pads on and go to work.”
Licata isn’t the only player with local ties to be getting a shot with the Bills.
Robert Kugler, a member of the Orchard Park High School state championship team in 2008 and a 2009 All-Western New York selection, said on Twitter he’s signing with the Bills as an undrafted free agent.
Kugler, whose father, Sean, is the head coach at UTEP and a former offensive line coach for the Bills, started 43 straight games at center for Purdue after taking over midway through his redshirt freshman season.