ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Two Buffalo Bills players, Stefan Charles (above) and Jamaal Westerman, are playing in their hometown on Sunday.
Charles, a backup defensive tackle, was born and raised in east-end Toronto — Scarborough, to be specific — before moving to Oshawa to finish up high school.
And never mind their large families who still live there. This week just about everyone they ever knew back home is calling or texting them, looking for tickets to the Bills’ game against the Atlanta Falcons.
“Listen, man, my phone probably still has text messages coming in as we speak,” Westerman said after the Bills practice on Wednesday.
“Friends, people I went to high school with, it’s crazy.
“Somebody texted me this week wanting a ticket, saying, ‘Oh, yeah, remember I sat next to you in class,’ and I’m like, ‘Come on, man! I haven’t talked to you in five years.’ But I think every NFL player goes through that when they go home.”
Westerman, a fifth-year NFLer in his first season with the Bills, will play at the Rogers Centre for the third time. He played there with his college team, Rutgers, in the International Bowl against Ball State, and with the New York Jets in Bills-in-Toronto II in 2009.
Once again, the weekend will serve as a Westerman family reunion of sorts.
“It gives everybody a reason to take a couple of days off and get together. One of my brothers flew in for the game. I’ll see the family for a bit on Saturday, and after the game on Sunday.
“But when you play a game, you’re there to play the game — not to visit family. People always try to pull you out, like, ‘C’mawn! Let’s go out!’ But you don’t.”
And you shudder every time your smartphone buzzes.
“I keep telling Stefan, ‘Man, when it comes time for these tickets when you go home, turn that phone off. This is my third time, so I know. You gotta say, ‘I can’t help you.’”
This is the first time Charles will play at the Rogers Centre, a venue he visited many times as a kid, for sports games and other events.
“I just want to go out and hopefully put on a good show for a lot of people I know, and just get a win,” Charles said. “My family and friends, they all want tickets but I don’t know how many I can get. I’m just trying to be focused on this game.
“It’s just a blessing, to play there. I’m happy I can play in front of my family, my friends and my city. I’m just trying to help us get a win.”