Buffalo Bills tight end Derek Fine was just a rookie in 2008, lining up against the New York Jets in Week 9 of the football season. As a backup and coming off a thumb injury, he had yet to make a reception in the NFL. The Jets weren't worried about him when he lined up on a first-and-goal play early in the game.
"They were probably thinking, 'They're not going to throw to this guy,'" Fine said with a chuckle.
After the snap, Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards scrambled and looked toward the end zone. Fine was there, arms over his head, begging Edwards to look his way. He was wide open, and caught his first career catch in the NFL for a 9-yard touchdown.
"He threw it and I was like 'Holy cow, I just caught a touchdown in the NFL,'" said Fine, a native of Sallisaw, Okla. "I spiked that sucker as hard as I could."
After catching 10 passes for 94 yards as the Buffalo Bills' No. 2 tight end in 2008, Active.com caught up with Derek Fine to get insight on how he made it where every young athlete dreams of going--into professional sports.
How did you get started in football?
I was 11 years old when I started playing. Me and two of my friends went over to Fort Smith, Ark., and we played in a boys' club league that was over there. That was my very first year playing organized football.
Was football always your favorite sport?
Actually, football was last on my list. After I got to a certain point in high school, it ended up being my favorite. When I was a kid, baseball was my sport and I was real good at baseball. I did everything. I played baseball, golf, basketball, football and I wrestled for a while when I was a kid. I liked baseball, and as I got older and got into middle school, I really liked basketball and kind of thought that could possibly be my way to get a scholarship to play in college.
I actually almost quit football my freshman year of high school. The only reason I ended up not quitting was in the fourth game of the season, I ended up starting for the varsity team, and I started the rest of the year playing tight end. That sealed the deal for me as far as football, because being a freshman in high school, I started on the varsity team. It was a big deal.
What's one thing that new tight ends need to pick up when playing the position?
I would say blocking, but blocking is kind of a mental thing, a toughness thing. You either want to do it or you don't. My standpoint was, in the way that I had grown up and the way my dad raised me to do sports, do everything with a tough mental attitude and do it as best as you can. I never wanted to ever settle for mediocrity.
The NFL was always a dream, but when did it become a realistic goal for you?
The NFL probably became a realistic goal for me somewhere in the summer before my senior year (at the University of Kansas). I knew I could play, I knew that I would get a shot, but I didn't really know what kind of shot that I would get. For me, it was kind of like 'Well, shoot, I know I'll get a shot because I can play football, but I'm really going to have to work at it.'
Toward the end of the summer and into the season, I was playing well. My coach was telling me about different coaches and scouts that were coming in looking at me. A bunch of my coaches were telling me that the NFL Combine should definitely be in my future ... That was really when I thought this was the real deal and I have a chance at it.