BBD Editor: Dan Hope
Adjusting to the life in the NFL is a challenge for all rookies, but Buffalo Bills undrafted free-agent signings Jimmy Gaines and Derek Brim have an advantage of familiarity.
The two Western New York natives are not only familiar with the city of Buffalo but also with one another. Gaines and Brim were both 2010 graduates from Canisius High School, a private, all-male secondary institution in Buffalo, where they were football teammates.
Gaines went on to the University of Miami, where he was a three-year starter at linebacker. Brim stayed local at the University at Buffalo, where he began his career as a walk-on but emerged as a starting safety midway through his junior season.
Both players did enough to capture the interest of the Bills, who made room for the local products on their 90-man preseason roster. That doesn’t ensure they’ll be on the Bills’ 53-man regular season roster, but both players are fighting hard to turn their opportunity into a career.
From Buffalo to Buffalo
While Gaines and Brim both said they received offers to sign with other NFL teams, each decided independently that coming back to Buffalo was the best decision.
“I didn’t plan for the Bills to be the best … but that’s just how it happened,” Gaines said in an interview with Buffalo Bills Draft.
Although he was open to playing for any team, Gaines said “it’s amazing” to be back where he grew up.
“Just being back home is a great feeling,” Gaines said. “I have a lot of support from back here in Buffalo, and it’s fun, it’s fun being back home and being close to my mom.”
Brim said he and Gaines have known each other since before high school, even though Gaines started out at another high school before transferring to Canisius.
“I was excited when he came to Canisius and I’m excited now,” Brim said in an interview with Buffalo Bills Draft.
Gaines described Brim as a “great guy.”
“I’m glad to be back teammates with him, and just excited to get out there and have our old chemistry that we had before on the field, like how we had in high school,” Gaines said.
New York isn’t often viewed as a hotbed for high school football talent, but Canisius, whose teams have been ranked in the top five by the New York State Sportswriters Association in each of the past two seasons, has grown to be regarded as a top-flight program in Western New York.
The school only has one alumnus, New York Giants wide receiver Phil McConkey, who has played in an NFL regular-season game, according to Miguel Rodriguez of The Buffalo News. That said, Brim and Gaines aren’t the only Canisius graduates looking to make their mark in the league this year; John Urschel, an offensive lineman who excelled both on the field and academically at Penn State, was selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft (No. 175 overall) by the Baltimore Ravens.
“[Canisius] was probably the best high school I could have went to in this area,” Brim said. “I always want to thank my coaches from high school, who always believed in me and gave me a great—the best opportunity to play football in Western New York.”
Gaines said his choice to attend Canisius is “one of the best decisions” he has ever made.
“The program that they have over there in Buffalo is second to none,” Gaines said. “Just the coaching there, they prepare you for the next level, for the college game.”
Gaines, Brim and Urschel were coached at Canisius by Brandon Harris, who is now the head coach at the University School of Nova Southeastern in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Harris, like his former pupils, believes their experience at Canisius played an integral role in their journeys to the NFL.
“We have a collegiate and pro-style system that we run,” Harris told Buffalo Bills Draft. “It lends well to kids transitioning into college and being able to get on the field quickly because they understand football, the terminology and they’re able to translate that to the pro game as well.”
Breaking down their chances to make the roster