By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: The trick-shot YouTube video featuring new Browns quarterback Alex Tanney is approaching 4 million views because most people think it’s just plain cool.
Tanney, however, isn’t one of them.
He actually said he “kind of” regrets making the video that made him famous two years ago coming out of Division III Monmouth College (Ill.) as an undrafted free agent.
“I think that a lot of people have the idea that I would not be in the position that I am in right now if it was not for the YouTube video,” Tanney said Wednesday before his first practice with the Browns, who signed him off the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad this week. … “I’ve heard so much about it. It’s just kind of old to me. But I like to think that I’m here because of the skills on the field, not throwing into garbage cans.”
Heading into his first chat with Browns beat writers, Tanney knew questions would inevitably be asked about the viral video and the appearance it earned him this year on the History Channel series Stan Lee’s Superhumans.
“Was that the third question it took before it came up?” he said.
Tanney, 26, clearly wants to prove he’s more than an Internet sensation known for throwing footballs at goal posts and through basketball hoops from long range. He could receive his first real shot this season.
Tanney, who has never played in a regular-season NFL game, will likely serve as Brandon Weeden’s backup Sunday when the Browns (4-7) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9). Weeden will start in place of Jason Campbell, who’s recovering from a concussion he suffered this past weekend in a 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said the organization worked out other quarterbacks but opted to snatch Tanney away from the Cowboys partly because assistant general manager Ray Farmer “was very high on him.” Tanney spent last season on injured reserve with the Kansas City Chiefs after hurting a finger, and Farmer got to know him while working as the Chiefs’ director of pro personnel. The Chiefs cut Tanney in May, and he signed with the Cowboys in July.
“We looked around and felt that Alex was a guy that had good potential,” Chudzinski said. “He was efficient in his opportunities in the preseason. Looking at him, he’s got good ability, accuracy.”
The Browns were also attracted to Tanney because the Cowboys’ offense is similar to theirs, especially the terminology, Chudzinski said. Tanney will have a package of plays designed for him to use Sunday, Chudzinski said, in the event he needs to play.
When asked if he’ll be ready to face the Jaguars, Tanney said, “I would like to think so, yeah. I’ve still got a lot of learning to do, but we’ll see.”
Chudzinski said the Browns waited to sign Tanney because Campbell and Weeden were healthy and they had needs at other positions because of injuries.
Now Tanney hopes to make the most of his opportunity the way he did at Lexington High School in Illinois and then at Monmouth, where he set NCAA Division III career records with 14,249 passing yards and 157 touchdowns, the highest total of all divisions.
“I came from a small high school. I wasn’t given much of an opportunity to go to a Division I school,” said Tanney, who the Browns list as 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds. “I’d like to think I’ve outworked a lot of people. With my work ethic and my character and the way I go about my business, it just kind of gave me an opportunity. So I’m real excited to be here.”
Since this past summer, Tanney had been learning the intricacies of the NFL from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. A three-time Pro Bowler, Romo went to Eastern Illinois University, a small Division I school.
“You see guys like that, and I think that it is all over the league. There is a lot of small-school guys now that are in the NFL,” Tanney said. “Coming out looking at that, it gave a guy like me hope.”
Now Tanney hopes to become known for something other than being a YouTube star. He said the nickname “trick shot” has followed him to Berea, but he has no interest in entertaining teammates after practice with stunts.
“I have heard a few guys mention it,” he said. “But I try and shy away from it.”
Tanney humored reporters by swearing he hit the goal post on his first attempt during his appearance on Stan Lee’s Superhumans, though he didn’t claim to nail every target in one take throughout the entire episode.
He also explained why there’s no guarantee the impressive accuracy displayed in the trick-shot video and on the History Channel would translate to live action on the gridiron.
“Because you’re just standing there,” said Tanney, who completed 40-of-73 passes (54.8 percent) for 423 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions, posting a passer rating of 65, in five preseason games for the Cowboys. “You’re not reading anything. You’re just locked onto a target. If you know where you’re going with the ball, maybe. But there’s so much more to the game of football than just standing there and trying to throw the ball at a target.”
Chudzinski said he hadn’t watched the famous trick shots.
“I’m hoping he can throw them to the receivers,” Chudzinski said.
Before the Browns finish the final five weeks of the season, they just might find out on game day.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.