Trick-shot QB Alex Tanney hopes to build legacy beyond viral video
TAMPA, Fla. — Alex Tanney is a good sport about this. Really, he is.
Each place the nomadic quarterback has landed since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2012 — the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Cleveland Browns and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Video comes up.
The viral trick-shot video, to be exact, a fun project with friends turned mammoth-in-the-locker-room titled, "Alex Tanney Trick Shot Quarterback — Better Than Johnny Mac" that launched him from an unknown signal-caller at tiny Division III Monmouth (Illinois) College to a YouTube superstar.
More than three years later, more than 3.96 million views to his name, he wants to be known for more.
"Yeah, every team I’ve been that’s probably the first question that’s brought up," Tanney said Tuesday, when asked by FOXSportsFlorida.com if he’s tired of talking about the video, posted in February 2011. "But I’m used to it now. I don’t mind it."
Tanney’s addition to the Bucs last Wednesday serves a practical purpose. They needed a fourth quarterback — behind Josh McCown, Mike Glennon and Mike Kafka — after Brett Smith underwhelmed and was waived following rookie minicamp.
But face it, the sideshow is more fun to discuss when talking about Tanney. The Video, like it or not, has become part of his tale.
"It’s all real stuff," he said. "It was just me and my buddies having some fun after practice there in college. My buddy edited and threw it up online, and it just went viral. We had a lot of fun with it.
"It was just great exposure for our college and for Division III football, because we’re never on ESPN or any type of televised game, and no one has ever really heard of Monmouth College."
Tanney’s addition, even with the Ripley’s factor, makes sense for Tampa Bay.
Why not give a flier to someone who can throw from his knees and split the goal posts from 50 yards away? Why not give chance to someone who can chuck a pass into the bed of a moving truck on a country road from 55-60 yards away? Why not give a look to a guy who can launch a throw from one end of a gymnasium into a hoop and hit nothing but net, like he had perfected the art of sinking a half-court heave with a basketball?
"We’re always looking to improve our ball club, and each week we’ll be bringing players in," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "If we feel like they’re better than what we have on the roster at that time, we’ll make a move. Alex came in and did a good job. I’m told he’s a YouTube sensation or something like that. I’m behind the times on a lot of that. But on the football field, he did some good things, and we’re going to go to camp with four quarterbacks, and he’s our fourth one."
The first thing you notice about Tanney is how he’s more Derek Jeter than Muhammad Ali about the whole thing. He’s Mr. Humble when the video comes up, which took all of 17 seconds after he left the practice field Tuesday at One Buc Place.
The entire experience, from his perspective, sounds no different than a bunch of close pals snagging footballs from the garage and messing around in the backyard. It sounds more exclamation marks than X’s and O’s.
Looks can be deceiving. Tanney admitted several takes were necessary with some of the shots. When asked if he has a favorite moment in the four-minute, 59-second leap into online fame, he shrugged off the … coolness … of it all.
"There’s a couple in there," he said. "Really, it’s just me getting lucky."
Lucky or not, McCown was blown away. Last Thursday, he sat in Tampa’s airport and called up Tanney’s video. Before long, there was the new reserve dazzling before the veteran’s eyes: The spirals, the throws off a roof, the darts from one end of a weight room to the next.
Tanney’s grade on McCown’s first impression: A-plus-plus.
"I was sitting in the airport Thursday heading out of town and watched it," McCown said. "And some pretty neat trick shots. I said, ‘Man, it’s pretty cool with things they thought of.’ And there’s obviously not a lot to do at Monmouth. But it was pretty cool."
If "pretty cool" can translate into a Bucs career that sticks remains to be discovered. Tanney was part of the Browns’ active roster for the final five weeks of last season, but he has yet to produce any regular-season stats. He says he’s "retired" from the trick-shot game, which makes sense if he wants to survive within the grind-or-go-home NFL lifestyle.
Still, memory of The Video is never far away, the trick-shot stardom forever part of his football reputation.
"I hope it’s not my legacy," Tanney said.
It’s too late for that.
But there’s still time to be remembered for more.