Mario Addison came into the NFL in 2011 with the Colts as an undrafted rookie. Despite the rivers of money that flow throughout the league, undrafted players don’t really get to dip their toes in those waters until they, at least, make a roster.
While Addison navigated the uphill climb to make an NFL team without the pedigree of a draft pick, a teammate opened his home and gave Addison a place to stay. The teammate was pretty young himself–only in year two–but was a first round pick and had a fat rookie contract that provided luxury he could share.
That teammate was Jerry Hughes.
It’s one of the reasons why Addison was excited to sign a free agent contract with the Bills back in March. He discussed Hughes’ generosity on a Zoom call with Western New York reporters on Monday afternoon.
Addison was more than willing to pull his own weight while rooming with Hughes back in 2011, but Hughes would have none of it.
“I tried to pay rent. I tried to pay a bill or two and he kept turning me down,” Addison said. “That’s why I’m always grateful to Jerry. He housed me. He took on a role as a vet when he was only in his second year, as well. He took on leadership already. He took me up under his wing when he was fragile like I am. I’m very grateful for that.”
The transition this year from Carolina to the Bills is a whole lot easier thanks to all the former Panthers already on the roster, the coaching staff and in the front office. Addison says Buffalo “feels like home already”.
Seeds for his move to Buffalo were planted last summer when the Bills traveled to South Carolina for joint training camp practices with the Panthers. Addison was impressed with how much the Bills enjoyed being around each other. He said he noticed “no separatists”.
He specifically raved about how business-like the Buffalo offensive line was in head to head drills with the Carolina D-line. There were no fights, no issues. It was just work.
“To compete with those guys at practice every day, I know it’ll make me a better player and I know I’ll make those guys better,” Addison said.
The nine year vet is also, apparently, a slave to fashion.
“I love y’all colors,” Addison said, before quickly correcting himself. The whole Bills as “we” thing has not quite set in yet. “I love our colors. Dope colors. I think I look good in that red and that blue.”
The Bills’ true colors were also part of the attraction. Addison knows his position coach, Eric Washington, and Sean McDermott well from their time in Carolina. McDermott has advertised the Bills during the offseason as a place where players become “the best version of themselves”.
Addison wholly buys in.
“When they teach you life lessons, it’s about real life things too, on and off the field. Try to teach you to be a better man, a better husband, a better father. Everything,” Addison said. “It ain’t all about football.”
Addison participated in the Zoom call from an outdoor gym at home. In fact, he jokingly chided the reporters on the other end of the call for delaying the workout that was next on his to-do list.
He’s been able to do everything necessary to remain in shape for the 2020 season, despite the rampant restrictions and closures prompted by Covid-19. The 32-year old says he feels like he’s 25.
His real age will fit better with this Buffalo defensive end crew. Hughes is 31 and Trent Murphy turns 30 in December. Addison actually feels relieved to have all that experience around him and that includes 30 year old Star Lotulelei. It’ll “take a load off me,” Addison said.
The defensive line is older, in part, due to the departure of Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson. The crowd-pleasing, lip-flapping duo also depleted a large portion of the Bills’ swag on defense. Addison says he can help with that. The party that seems to be happening in Buffalo is the thing he’s most excited to join.
“The first thing that jumps out to me about the Bills defense is that those guys have fun,” he said. “The money is good and dandy sometimes, but when you’re out there having fun with your teammates, that’s priceless. “
Addison says he and Hughes have stayed in contact throughout their last eight seasons in the NFL. Both have played, predominantly, right defensive end and have often instructed each other on how to deal with the league’s cadre of left tackles.
That will be a bit of a problem this year because both guys still can’t play on the right side. Addison said if he has to play a lot on the left, that’s fine with him. He still probably does owe Hughes a favor or two.
Unlike their first meeting however, both have about the same cache as successful, respected pass rushers this time around. If they can share a house, Addison figures they can share a position, too.
“I already ran it by Jerry. We’re gonna have to play both sides. It’s only fair if both of us play both sides,” he said with a laugh.
“Whatever I can do to help the team… I will.”