Aug. 9, 2010
It is a world away from the NFL training camps where he has spent his summers since graduating from Georgetown in 2007, Alex Buzbee is traveling through Canada as a defensive lineman for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL).
The game in Canada is noticeably different. The 110 yard long, 65 yard wide field in Canada is larger than the 100 yard long, 50 yard wide used in the United States demands. Defensive players also must remain one yard away from the line of scrimmage prior to the snap, making the job of defensive lineman different than in the American game.
"The first thing I've noticed is the field is way longer and way wider," Buzbee said. "You really have to be in shape. When I was in the NFL I was over 270 (pounds), now I'm around 250. It's a lot of fun for me though, it's a lot of pass rushing. You've got to rush really hard and it is a lot of running."
Though instead of dwelling on playing a different game and not being on an NFL training camp roster, Buzbee is making the most of the opportunity and enjoying his time in Toronto.
"The game is quite a bit different, but not in a bad way," said Buzbee, "I'm really enjoying the city of Toronto so far; it's a great place. The Argonauts have struggled the last few years, but right now we're off to a good start and we have a chance to stay toward the top of our division. The people (in Canada) are more laid back, but informed and real passionate about their teams, so it's different than the NFL but in a good way."
With Toronto's victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday, the Argonauts improved to 4-2, trailing first place Montreal by just two points. The excitement in Buzbee's voice when talking about having a chance to turn around the fortunes of his new Toronto team is genuine. Instead of getting caught up thinking about getting on an NFL training camp roster, Buzbee speaks with his focus on the moment, a quality that has made him a well-respected teammate throughout his football career.
"You just have to enjoy every moment of it," Buzbee said. "There are very few people who have the opportunity that I have, so I just try to enjoy every day that I'm out here. I still have to pinch myself every morning when I wake up that I get to play professional football for a living."
In 2007, former Redskins' Assistant Coach Gregg Williams told The Washington Post, "The first two or three practices (Alex Buzbee) was just trying to get his chinstrap back on right because he was getting slapped around pretty good. But what matters is how are you going to respond when all of a sudden things aren't going the way you want them to go? Are you going to give in to it or fight back? And to his credit, he fought. He has gotten steadily better."
Those are still qualities that describe Buzbee, who paired that attitude with his talent to become the first Georgetown player since Jim Ricca, who retired in 1956, to play in the NFL. It's a way that Buzbee says he has always approached the game.
"You just have to give it everything you've got," Buzbee said. "I'm one of those guys that has always taken pride in the fact that I work hard and will outwork someone I'm competing with, whether I match up with them physically. There's no excuse to not work hard on every play."
It is part of what helped Buzbee finish his Georgetown career with 27.5 sacks, placing him second in Hoya history and it certainly was a large part of why he was awarded the Joe Eacobacci Memorial No. 35 jersey, an honor that still ranks among the most important of his career.
"I loved wearing that jersey," Buzbee said. "There was a plaque about the number 35 when I walked in as a freshman and I knew how much it meant to the other guys and the coaches. I thought it would be cool if I could wear that as a senior. I knew as a senior when I put it on every day that I wasn't wearing it just for me, I wearing it for my teammates and coaches and for Joe Eaccobacci. I took a lot of pride in wearing that jersey because of everything that Joe stood for as the ultimate student-athlete on the field and in the classroom."
Buzbee is six games into his CFL season, as the Hoyas begin training camp this week. Playing in Canada he will not be afforded the same opportunities to come back and watch the Hoyas during the 2010 season, but they will be on his mind.
"I keep up with them every year," Buzbee said. "I know they struggled last year, but I'll be wishing them all the best."