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Former UConn OL Ryan Van Demark has a shot at the Buffalo Bills' roster
The path of an undrafted free agent is not an easy one, but the former Husky star may hang on this year.
Ryan Van Demark saw some rough times at UConn. In his five years with the football program, the Huskies won a total of seven games and had one season canceled. Teams like that typically don’t send many players to the pros, but Van Demark had been a starter on the offensive line since he was a freshman, making career 45 starts.
Still, he wasn’t picked in the 2022 NFL Draft and began the uphill battle of trying to keep his pro dreams alive. After a year on the brink, those dreams might finally become a reality, as he’s been getting second team reps at both tackle positions with the Buffalo Bills this preseason.
Van Demark signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2022 as an undrafted free agent. But he was cut before the season started. He went unclaimed on waivers and then joined the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad, where he remained for the rest of the season.
“It was hard,” Van Demark told The Athletic regarding his first year. “Throughout camp, rookie year being undrafted, coming in on P-squad, you know, you’re not really the guy that the coaches are looking at.”
As a freshman at UConn, Van Demark played in all twelve games and started nine. He was entrenched as a starter for the rest of his career. At 6-foot-6, the offensive lineman weighed 265 pounds when he arrived at UConn, so he began bulking up to boost his prospects.
Now in his first year of the NFL, Van Demark is weighing in at 300 pounds. After spending the past year sharpening his skills, the 25-year-old feels he’s ready to make the Bills’ roster.
“It kind of hit me like probably the end of last season, going into OTAs where I was like, ‘Ok, this is my year. I’ve got this now,'” Van Demark said in The Athletic. “I had a good offseason, and then starting off camp, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I can do this.’”
The New Jersey native’s work ethic and skills are being noticed by fans, teammates, and his coaches. He was a lightly recruited late bloomer in high school who also played volleyball at The Hun School.
“[Van Demark] has really grown in the system and really shown his athletic ability and his ability to play [tackle] and hold up,” Bills’ offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said in a press conference (via BillsWire).
This year, Van Demark has seen a healthy chunk of playing time during the preseason. In the Bills’ recent preseason against the Colts, he played a total of 52 snaps. Joining the second unit of the offensive line, he logged 18 snaps at left tackle and 34 at right tackle.
This weekend, Van Demark will have one more pre-season game to show that he deserves a spot on the roster as the Bills face off against the Chicago Bears on Saturday.
With the 53-man roster deadline of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, we’ll find out if Van Demark makes the team but his chances appear solid to join the AFC contender.