Stevie Johnson emerged as a playmaker for the Buffalo Bills last fall. The 224th pick in the 2008 draft produced 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first season of full-time action, proving that raw receiving skills, size, speed, strength and college pedigree don’t matter nearly as much as the artful ability to get open and catch the ball.
This summer, Johnson is seeing those things in teammate Naaman Roosevelt, the second-year receiver who grew up in Buffalo, starred against middling college competition for the University at Buffalo, and signed with the hometown club as a free agent, buried on the depth chart to start his career.
“Naaman is a natural,” Johnson said after a recent training camp practice at St. John Fisher College. “Like me, he’s not a blazer. But every practice, we see him getting down there, beating somebody. He’s a pure athlete. He’s a gamer.”
Coach Chan Gailey concurred, and hinted that Roosevelt will survive what could be one of the most fierce camp battles for a roster spot.
“He is a great young player,” Gailey said. “God didn’t give him a lot of speed. God didn’t give him a lot of size, but he gets the most of out what he has. He is a very good young player and I’m excited to see how he does in the games this year. He did well when we threw him in there last year.”
Having re-written the receiving records at UB — while learning the position after being the best quarterback in Buffalo during his St. Joe’s career — Roosevelt went undrafted because he measures just 6-feet tall and runs a relatively slow 40-yard dash. He performed well in limited duty during training camp and preseason last year, and was signed to the practice squad after being one of the final cuts. Activated for the final five games, Roosevelt caught nine passes for 139 yards.