Photo by Michael Johnson
Buffalo Bills tight end Nick Provo turns up field with the ball after making the catch during a drill at last Monday evening's training camp session at St. John Fisher College in Rochester.
Buffalo Bills Training Camp
Provo shows up in the ‘Nick’ of time
PITTSFORD – All you need is a shot.
The Buffalo Bills announced last week that they were giving former Syracuse tight end Nick Provo his, when they signed him as a free agent to compete for a spot in training camp.
Nick is the son of Sam Provo, a 1979 graduate of Mount Morris High School.
The signing also reunites the former tight end with his college coaches: head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
“All my family are Bills fans, everyone back home in Florida are Bills fans,” said Provo, a native of West Palm Beach. “When they announced that (the Bills) had signed me, my phone was blowing up all day long, from people back home that are Bills fans, family in Rochester. Everybody, just saying congratulations and good luck.”
The 6-foot-4, 249-pound tight end played for the Syracuse Orange for five seasons, his freshman year as a redshirt. His senior year, he caught 51 passes, a school record, for 537 yards and scored seven touchdowns. He received first-team All-BIG EAST accolades for his play.
He also set a school record among tight ends with 92 career receptions, and recorded the second-most receiving yards at the position (1,027).
The tight end spot is a deep position for the Bills, and Provo knows he is going to need to stand out to find a spot on the final roster.
“For me, it’s just learning,” said Provo. “They have a whole new no-huddle thing going on right now. They didn’t have that at Syracuse. I’m showing them what I can do and hopefully be a part of this team.”
It won’t be easy. Provo was brought in due to injuries at the position, the need for additional bodies at camp, and his familiarity with Marrone and Hackett’s system. But all it takes is a chance to make an impression on an NFL roster, and Provo has his.
“We’re still in that evaluation process with (tight end Mike Caussin’s hip injury) and then Scott Chandler (on ACL recovery), we’ve had on a pitch count. I think we’re getting good reps with (Chris) Gragg, obviously with Dorin Dickerson and Lee Smith. But again, at three, that position, because we want to go 12 with two or three units. We needed to make sure we brought someone in,” said Marrone. “That’s the decision we had to make and we brought in another tight end.”
But if Provo wasn’t any good, he wouldn’t have been the choice. And if anyone knows what he can do, it’s his former coaching staff.
“I think I’m pretty good with my receiving skills,” said Provo. “When I first got here, (Marrone) said, ‘If you want to make it on this team, you’ve got to improve your blocking.’ He knows how I was at Syracuse, I wasn’t the best blocker. I got better over time, but to make this team, I’ve got to be a better blocker.”
“I think it’s early on for him at this level, but Nick was a productive player in college,” said Marrone. “He did some good things. It’ll be interesting to see how he is at the point of attack. He caught a lot of balls. He knows a lot of the things that we’re doing, not everything. He is a smart kid. And that gives him an opportunity.”
While reuniting with Marrone is exciting, Provo is especially happy to be playing, again, for Hackett.
“Coach Hackett, he makes football so much more fun,” said Provo. “If it wasn’t for him, at Syracuse, I wouldn’t be here (with the Bills). I wouldn’t have had the year I had. The coaches I had before, I was just no fun. We were losing all the time, it was awful. He comes in, and he’s the one who turned the program around.”
It’s easy to see why Provo likes Hackett so much. Cuse hired Hackett as their quarterback and tight end coach in 2010, the year Provo had his junior year breakout season of 33 catches for 365 yards and a touchdown.
“After Hackett came in, that’s when we got really good,” said Provo. “It’s just his enthusiasm. He gets guys more involved in the game and to play better. It’s just what he does.”
Provo is hoping that the magic can continue in Buffalo and his support extends from West Palm Beach to Mount Morris.
“I just hope to be around for (my family) to come watch me play when the season starts,” said Provo, who will play Friday at home when the Bills host the Vikings.