Nov. 5, 2001
In early September former Tiger and current Carolina Panther defensive tackle Brentson Buckner appeared on a television show featuring Clemson football. During the course of the interview Buckner jokingly (we hope!) voiced his displeasure over not being featured on the back cover of the 2001 Clemson media Guide.
“I still haven’t forgiven Tim (Bourret, Clemson’s Sports Information Director) for not being on the back cover,” said a laughing Buckner. “But I guess I will let him off the hook this time!”
The back cover of the media guide features former Tigers who have been Super Bowl Champions, first-round draft choices or Pro Bowl participants. Buckner does not fit in any of those categories, but he has had an outstanding NFL career. He might have had his best year in 2000 when he had a career-high 61 tackles and started every game for the San Francisco 49ers.
We can assure Buckner that he has not been forgotten by anyone at Clemson. After playing in the professional ranks for Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and San Francisco, we are very happy that he is back in the Carolina’s playing for the Panthers.
It is hard to believe that Buckner last donned the Clemson uniform in 1993. That year , which saw the Tigers post a 9-3 record and claim a Peach Bowl victory, was an all-conference campaign for Buckner. He led Clemson defensive linemen in tackles and was the defensive MVP of the Clemson’s Peach Bowl win over Kentucky. At the time he finished his Clemson career, the three-year starter ranked third in Clemson history in sacks behind Michael Dean and William Perry.
“Time really does fly,” said Buckner. “It is hard to believe that I have not played at Clemson since 1993. It really does seem like just yesterday when I was there.”
While Buckner has not had much of an opportunity to travel back to Clemson in the last decade he does keep a close eye on the Tiger football team. He takes pride in following the Tigers and hopes he can dish out a few good-natured insults to former Florida State Seminole and rookie Panther quarterback Chris Weinke in the near future.
“We were waiting in the airport when Florida State lost to North Carolina,” said Buckner. “Chris was telling everybody that Florida State was young and teams better get them this year. He has been kind of quiet about FSU lately. I’m hoping I can give him a hard time.” Even with his hectic NFL schedule Buckner has had an opportunity to admire the current Tiger squad from a distance. He also wonders what might have been if the Buckner-led defense of the early 1990’s could be combined with the current high-powered Clemson offense.
“I was really impressed when I watched the N.C. State game on television,” said Buckner. “At the half, I called Chester McGlockton (now with the Denver Broncos) and told him we would have won two national championships with our defense and this offense.” Buckner stated both he and McGlockton were impressed with current Tiger signal caller Woodrow Dantzler.
“He really had it going against N.C. State and Georgia Tech,” said Buckner. “I’m glad I don’t have to chase him around. He looks like he can do it all.”
When Buckner recalls his playing days at Clemson, he has fond memories. The quality experience he remembers during his time in college is still vivid today. “Clemson was, and is a very special place,” said Buckner. “When we came off the practice fields on Thursday before a home game and there would already be a lot of RV’s behind Jervey. I can still remember coming in from Anderson on the buses before a home game and seeing all the people wearing orange and all of the kids throwing footballs around. There is no place like Clemson on a football Saturday.”
Mention any home game to Buckner and there is always a memory about running down the hill. But his recollection of the “most exciting 25 seconds in all of college football” lasts for several minutes. “To me the most exciting thing about running down the hill was the bus ride from the locker room to the hill,” said Buckner. “You could hear the crowd get louder and louder as the buses drove around the stadium. I have never been around anything like that, before or since.”
For Buckner to make such a statement about running down the hill is impressive. The eight-year NFL veteran has played in more than 100 NFL games, including Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys.
“I have a lot of great opportunities as a professional,” said Buckner. “Every NFL player dreams of winning a Super Bowl. Playing in the Super Bowl was very special, but I still have the goal of winning one. I have reached a lot of goals I have set for myself, but I’m still hoping to be a part of a Super Bowl Championship.”
It was during Buckner’s stint as a Steeler that he saw how special a bond former Clemson players have with each other. During the 1994-96 seasons he had the chance to team up with another Clemson great, linebacker Levon Kirkland. The tutelage Kirkland provided was greatly appreciated. They were both starters in each game for the Steelers run to the AFC Championship in 1995.
“Levon was the first person who called me after I was drafted (second round-50th player overall) by Pittsburgh,” recalled Buckner. “I red-shirted at Clemson during his senior season so I had been around him before. It was like having a big brother around showing you the ropes.
“That is one of the reasons I chose Clemson,” said Buckner. “There were always some older guys who came back and told us how much Clemson had meant to them. I remember seeing Jeff Davis, Terry Kinard and Michael Dean Perry at some of our games. They let us know how important it was for Clemson to win. They expected it of us.”
When Buckner makes the short trip down Interstate 85 from Charlotte to see the current group of Clemson players he can deliver a message about subjects other than football. He earned his degree from Clemson in English in 1994.
“It is very important for guys to realize that there is more to life than just football,” said Buckner. “It meant a lot for me to earn my degree. I feel like I would have wasted an opportunity if I had not graduated. These guys need to understand they are cheating themselves if they don’t make some progress toward their degree.”
Through his hard work on an off the field Brentson Buckner will always have a special place in the hearts of all Clemson fans. We can safely say that no one has forgotten his contributions to Clemson football. Maybe a center picture of the 2002 football media guide would be appropriate.
Sanford Rogers worked in the Clemson sports information office as a student assistant from 1990-93 and currently serves on the stat crew.
March 14, 2019