- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

Stephon Heyer was headed toward having his name called during the 2006 NFL Draft when he planted his left leg in a drill in August 2005 and felt it give way. The senior offensive tackle, the leader of Maryland’s line, had torn his ACL and was done for the year.

But the NFL dream wasn’t over for the massive Heyer (6-foot-6, 329 pounds and size 22 feet). He redshirted the 2005 season and returned to help lead Maryland to its first bowl game since the 2003 season. And though Heyer wasn’t selected in last weekend’s NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins signed the criminal justice graduate the next day.

With last year’s top reserve tackle, Todd Wade, having moved to left guard, Heyer could challenge the aging Jason Fabini and journeyman Ross Tucker for a job backing up starters Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen.

“My knee was probably the reason I wasn’t drafted, but I can’t dwell on the past,” Heyer said as the Redskins continued their rookie minicamp yesterday. “I have to take advantage of the opportunity that I have. I knew the Redskins didn’t really have a young tackle. I think I can be that young tackle. I know my body, the game, the position. I’ve worked real hard to get where I’m at. I’m a great pass protector, extremely athletic and pretty aggressive. I just love the game. Coach [Joe] Bugel has said that I just need to become a better run blocker. With his expertise and my effort, I think I can do it.”

Bugel definitely could use a prospect after 2004 draft picks Mark Wilson and Jim Molinaro washed out and the line’s youngest starter, left guard Derrick Dockery, left for Buffalo. Of the backup candidates, only Mike Pucillo has played a snap for Bugel. Tucker, Fabini, Will Whitticker and Taylor Whitley have been cut a combined seven times in the past two years.

Yet another sibling

As if drafting relatives of NFL players Carson Palmer, Dawan Landry and Bennie, Brian and Al Blades last weekend wasn’t enough, the Redskins also have Byron Westbrook in camp on a tryout basis. Westbrook is the brother of Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook. The 5-foot-10, 194-pound Byron resembles his brother size-wise but plays cornerback. And unlike his brother, who starred at Division I-AA Villanova, Byron played at Division III Salisbury University.

“Byron has done very well,” assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams said. “He has toughness. He has game instincts. Does he have enough deep speed? Can he play out there on the autobahn like corners do? If he can’t do that, is he tough enough to play inside at the nickel or the safety position because he has a good frame? My biggest worry right now is that the playbook doesn’t end up with the Eagles.”

Not overwhelmed

Alex Buzbee didn’t play his college games on national television or in cavernous stadiums. So the defensive end from Georgetown could have been intimidated by his introduction to the big-time this weekend. But despite an unconcealed joy about getting to wear an NFL uniform, Buzbee didn’t feel totally out of his element.

“It’s awesome to be here, pretty surreal,” said Buzbee, one of 64 former collegians in camp on a tryout basis. “I have friends and roommates who are diehard Redskins fans. [But] the first thing that coach [Joe] Gibbs said when we walked in was, ‘I don’t care how you got here, I care if you can play.’ It didn’t work out going to a big-time school out of high school, but I had a pretty good career at Georgetown and they’re giving me a shot here. I just have to make plays, do something to let the coaches know that I belong, whether that’s beating a guy on a pass rush or making a play in the run game or just hustling. They love hustle. They film everything and really scrutinize it.”

The 6-4, 246-pound Buzbee was a three-time, second-team All-Patriot League selection while finishing his career with 27 sacks, seven forced fumbles and 45 tackles for loss. Buzbee also was chosen to wear No. 35 as a senior in honor of former Hoya Joe Eacobacci, who was killed in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks.

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