January 9, 2011

Pats Helping to Keep Farnham’s Dream Alive


By Robert Lee
Providence Journal Sports Writer


FOXBORO — Buddy Farnham had been living the last three months in limbo.

The former Brown University star wide receiver did not get selected in last April's NFL Draft, but he was one of five rookies invited to the Patriots rookie minicamp. And he did everything he could to make the team.

After impressing the coaches during minicamp, he signed with the Patriots and spent all summer in Foxboro learning from some of the best former and current receivers in the league in Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Torry Holt, among others.

He played as a receiver in training camp, battling against the likes of Pro Bowlers Brandon Meriweather and Devin McCourty.

He played on special teams, returning punts and kickoffs.

He even played as a defensive back in New England's preseason finale. He knew he was a long shot to make the roster, but he still gave it his all every day.

He lasted longer than most of the other receivers that the Patriots had in camp that did not make the team, but in the end, he got released in New England's final round of cuts.

And then the waiting began.

Farnham, who became the fourth player in Brown football history to be named the Ivy League's Player of the Year after catching 74 passes for 1,003 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior in 2009, waited patiently for a call from another team.

Farnham, whose 100.3 receiving yards per game as a senior ranked fifth in the nation, started working out at Athletic Evolution in Woburn, Mass., while living with his parents in Andover, Mass., to stay in shape until another team called his number.

"I lifted and ran every day just to stay in shape so if another opportunity like this came along I would be ready to give it a good shot," said Farnham.

Day after he day he waited, but the call never came.

Not until the Patriots finally dialed him up on Dec. 29 and signed him to the practice squad. Farnham wasn't doing anything glamorous at the time, but it was a day he will never forget.

"I was watching TV and eating cereal, getting ready to go to the gym," said Farnham, who caught 229 passes at Brown for 2,895 yards and 27 touchdowns "That was real nice when I got the call. I was real excited."

Farnham was so impressive in his first three days at practice that he was named one of the Patriots' practice squad players of the week for helping the team get ready to play the Miami Dolphins in their regular-season finale.

Farnham has wanted to play in the NFL ever since he suited up for his first football practice as a youngster. And after getting cut by the Patriots and not getting another opportunity to play for another team, Farnham said that he was close to giving up on his dream.

But he's glad that he didn't.

"I was just so thankful," Farnham said of getting another shot in the NFL with the Patriots. "After being home for so long you start to lose hope and faith and think that maybe you're not going to get a call back, and I'm thankful that I just kept grinding it out and running every day and staying in shape and working hard so I'm just grateful to be back here."

The Patriots are Farnham's hometown team.

"I grew up 45 minutes north of here and I was always a fan [of the Patriots]," said Farnham. "That's awesome, just to be on the practice squad and be here, be a part of this. To be running out on the field catching balls, playing defense, doing whatever they want me to do. I'll do anything."

That kind of versatility and unselfishness is exactly the type of person that Patriots coach Bill Belichick looks for in a player. The Patriots knew exactly the type of person and athlete that Farnham was from having him in training camp, so he didn't have to work out with the team before signing to the practice squad late last month.

The 6-foot, 194-pounder was a three-time, first-team All-Ivy selection at Brown.

"Unfortunately being home a lot this fall I was able to go to a lot of the games and I stay in touch with the coaches and some of the players who are still there," said Farnham.

Farnham was recently in New York at a Brown function, along with several other former Brown football players, including his idol growing up, Sean Morey (Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, Cardinals, Seahawks), along with Chas Gessner (Patriots, Tampa Bay, Seahawks, Jets, UFL) and Stephen Campbell.

"It was good to talk to those guys because they've gone down this road before," said Farnham. "They've played for different teams and got cut and it's good to have guys like that to talk to."

They told him to not give up on his dream and he won't.

"This is what I've worked for my whole life," said Farnham. "I've wanted to play football [in the NFL] my whole life. I just can't describe how happy I am to be back here playing football."

Ellison makes a quick exit

The Patriots have released defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison. Ellison was signed on Tuesday to provide added depth to the defensive line after the Patriots suspended rookie defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick and placed Ron Brace on injured reserve last Monday.

But the team reinstated Deaderick on Friday, which made Ellison expendable. They also need a roster spot to get down to the 53-man limit with rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes' roster exemption set to expire Monday, following a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.

roblee@projo.com