Potter won’t be checking out rides at the carnival or sampling elephant ears this year, however. He’s busy trying to earn a spot on the Buffalo Bills’ roster.
Potter, a 2008 Grand Haven High School graduate, was drafted with the 251st pick in the seventh round by the Bills in the 2012 NFL draft. The Bills already have one kicker on their roster — veteran Rian Lindell — so Potter has his work cut out for him if he hopes to be on the team’s opening-day roster.
“I definitely have to earn my spot,” said Potter, who is just wrapping up his first full week of training camp at St. John’s Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. “If I perform well, I should have a good shot at earning the kickoff position, but I still have to prove that I deserve it in preseason games and in practice.
“I’ve been working on my field goals a little bit, too, and I’ve improved a lot since college.”
That’s saying something, because Potter was outstanding as a four-year starting kicker at Western Michigan University, where he holds the school record in career points with 333.
But that doesn’t mean anything at the Bills’ camp, where Potter is just another wide-eyed rookie.
“I have to keep reminding myself that I’m at an NFL camp,” he said with a laugh. “You really have to appreciate being here. You dream your entire life for moments like this.”
Potter said that once it comes down to football, the NFL camp isn’t too different from what he experienced in college.
“It’s a lot like college because we’re back in the dorms,” he said. “Luckily, we have our own rooms. It’s fun for the most part. There’s a lot of sitting around, but it’s good being here with all these NFL guys trying to make the team.
“I’m pretty good friends with some of the other rookies on the team. We’re pretty close. Everyone’s here trying to make the team, trying to improve themselves, trying to help the Bills have a good year.”
The biggest differences from college to the pros, according to Potter, is that in the NFL, everyone is still fighting to earn their spot on the team; and in the NFL, everyone on the field is a complete freak athletically.
“There are definitely some big guys, and some big names, like Mario Williams and Shawne Merriman,” Potter said. “They’re all amazing athletically. They’re all huge.”
One thing Potter hasn’t been subjected to yet is any rookie hazing.
“All the new rules try to eliminate that, but they have what they call rookie night, where the rookie of each position takes the veterans out to dinner, out to the clubs,” he said. “Apparently that can get pretty pricy, but I don’t anticipate it being too bad for a specialist.”
Potter said he enjoys Buffalo, which is similar to Grand Haven in that it sits on the east shore of a Great Lake. Still, he hasn’t taken his first NFL paycheck and gone house shopping just yet.
“I won’t know I’m on the team for sure until after the last preseason game,” he said. “That’s when the final decisions are made. The plan is, if I can kick well, I’ll do kickoffs and Ryan will do field goals. Hopefully I’m able to showcase what I can do and be able to earn that spot.
“Once I know whether I’m on the team, I’ll go find a place to stay.”