Bills linemen bond while squeezing onto Buffalo-bound flight


BUFFALO, N.Y. — What do you get when three hulking, Bills rookie offensive linemen wind up squeezing onto the same commuter plane to Buffalo?

A game of musical chairs and plenty of attention, of course.

“It was quite the scene,” interior lineman Jack Anderson said Friday, recalling how he and fellow draft picks, Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle, wound up on the same connecting flight from Chicago to report for the Bills’ rookie camp.

“Heads were being ducked. They were trying to figure out where we were going to fit, and definitely not next to someone in the middle seat,” Anderson added. “It was pretty funny.”

At 6-foot-4 and 314 pounds, Anderson is the smallest of the group, and selected in the seventh round out of Texas Tech. Brown, a third-round pick out of Northern Iowa, is listed at 6-8 and 311 pounds, while Doyle, a fifth-rounder out of Miami, Ohio, comes in at 6-8, 320.

“I couldn’t tell you what everyone else was thinking, but it was definitely a smaller plane,” Doyle said. “We’re obviously bigger dudes, so the flight attendants noticed that and tried to switch us up, get us an exit-row seat with some more leg room.”

Bigger was better for the Bills when it came to the draft two weeks ago. General manager Brandon Beane used five of the team’s eight picks to fill short- and long-term needs along both sides of the line.

Buffalo opened its draft selecting pass rushers, University of Miami’s Greg Rousseau and Wake Forest’s Carlos ‘Boogie’ Basham, with its first two picks.

Beane joked he was working on filling out a basketball roster, with all five linemen listed at 6-3 or taller. More seriously, he said, “We do believe in being stout up front on both sides of the ball.”

Referring to coach Sean McDermott, Beane added: “That’s something that you’re going to see here as long as Sean and I are running this thing. … The game is still won and lost up front, so we want to be strong there.”

While Rousseau and Basham are expected to play immediate roles as part of Buffalo’s defensive line rotation, the offensive linemen are challenged to find ways to squeeze themselves onto a unit returning all five starters.

Brown and Doyle will compete for backup jobs behind starting tackles Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams. Anderson will vie for a backup spot at center or guard after playing mostly right guard in college.

The rookies are familiar with each other. Anderson and Doyle sat next to each other while attending the “OL Masterminds” camp for offensive linemen last year. Anderson and Brown, meantime, met up at this past year’s Senior Bowl.

Little did all three realize they booked the same flight to Buffalo until bumping into each other at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday.

“I was just sitting there eating breakfast and did a double-take because I saw Jack,” Brown said, noting Anderson had sprinted to the gate in fear he was going to be late. “Tommy came out of the blue, so we all kind of sat there and met each other. … And then we got on probably the smallest plane I’ve ever been on.”

Once settled, it didn’t take long for the trio to be recognized by Bills fans.

Brown wasn’t surprised. In visiting Buffalo after being drafted, he recalled how an airport security official wished him luck this season on his way home.

In many ways, Brown said, Buffalo reminds him of his close-knit hometown of Lenox, Iowa. On the night he was drafted, close to the entire town of 1,400 gathered around his home to celebrate.

Brown even paid respect to “Bills Mafia” that evening in being coaxed by his older brother to crash through a table, which has become a tailgating norm among team fans.

“I was a little nervous. But it turned out all right,” Brown said, before adding, “I don’t think I’ll be doing it again any time soon.”

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