ALUMNI: Tanner Vallejo healthy, set for NFL debut with Bills (STORY MAP) | TheUnion.com

ALUMNI: Tanner Vallejo healthy, set for NFL debut with Bills (STORY MAP)

After missing the final two preseason games and last week's season opener due to a knee injury, Tanner Vallejo is poised to make his regular season debut for the Buffalo Bills Sunday.

Vallejo was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but was a full participant in Friday's practice and is not listed on the Bills' injury report as of Friday.

The 2013 Nevada Union graduate is one of seven Bills linebackers to make the 53-man roster and is listed as the backup middle linebacker behind Preston Brown on the depth chart. Vallejo said he will also be playing on special teams.

"Right now I'm mainly on special teams and a backup linebacker," said Vallejo, who will wear No. 40. "I'm accepting my role as one of the few linebackers that made it. Obviously, they think pretty highly of me to keep me around. I'm just going to keep grinding, because that's what I've always done."

“I just want to become the best player that I can. Not just this year, but every season. Just keep trying to be the best player I can possibly be during the time I’m in the league.”

— Tanner Vallejo

The 6-foot, 1-inch, 228-pound Vallejo said his goals this season are simple.

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"I just want to become the best player that I can," he said. "Not just this year, but every season. Just keep trying to be the best player I can possibly be during the time I'm in the league. I just want to be the best player I can be for myself and for my teammates."

Vallejo said the locker room in Buffalo is a close one.

"We have a pretty cool locker room, everyone's close with each other," he said. "Obviously, there's a different vibe than college. It is a business and there's more of a business-like approach. But coach (Sean) McDermott and the staff have brought in a lot good players and people."

As Vallejo prepares to suit up for the first time in a regular season game, the NFL rookie said putting in the long hours honing his football ability and battling through all the injuries along the way has been well worth it.

"As a little kid I dreamed of doing this and always wanted to do this," Vallejo said. "I just love the game. Being able to call football my work is pretty awesome."

Vallejo added that he remains inspired by his little brother Hunter, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 6 months old. Hunter would beat the cancer that afflicted him, but was never allowed to play football, a sport that is prominent in the Vallejo family.

"My biggest inspiration is my little brother, who can't play football," Vallejo said. "He grew up wanting to play football but can't, so every time I'm on the field, I got him on my back with me."

The Bills (1-0) are on the road this week, facing the Carolina Panthers (1-0). The game is set to start 10 a.m. Pacific and will be on televised on CBS in certain regions.

Vallejo, who was a four-year starter at Boise State after a stellar career at Nevada Union, said he appreciates all the support he gets from the Nevada County community he grew up in.

"I appreciate all the people back home from our small community supporting me, and it doesn't go unnoticed," he said. "A lot of the people back home are the reason I play so hard on Saturdays and now on Sundays."

While at Nevada Union, Vallejo notched 419 tackles in his three-year varsity career. He was also a two-time Sierra Foothill League Defensive MVP, three-time All-Metro League selection and three-time All-Sac-Joaquin Section selection.

During Vallejo's career at Boise State, he played in 46 games, made 277 tackles, 5.5 sacks, forced two fumbles, recovered three fumbles, grabbed an interception and scored two defensive touchdowns.

In Vallejo's sophomore year at Boise State, he was named to the All-Mountain West Second Team and earned Defensive MVP honors in the Mountain West Championship Game and Fiesta Bowl. He received All-Mountain West honorable mention in his junior and senior seasons.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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