|The Toughest Coach There Ever Was by Frank Deford|
Page 13 of 20
Bradberry says the most memorable moment of his life came in the first game of his second season. To this point, he'd never been anything but a "---- idiot" who did what he was told off the index cards. Suddenly, before one play, while standing on the sideline, Bull Cyclone turned to him and said, "Well, what do you think?" Bradberry's knees turned to jelly. He had been ordained. The rest of the season he was a junior partner' and, afterward, Bull Cyclone highly recommended him to Delta State. He was awarded a scholarship, and he broke the records Buckner had set there.
But Buckner was undoubtedly Bull Cyclone's best quarterback. He was the one who almost got everything for Coach. With his little itty-bitty boys, only twice did Bull Cyclone have enough to win it all. The last time was in '69. Looking forward to that season, he told Virginia, "It's going to be like taking candy from a baby." To others, more worldly than she, he advised that he was "holding a royal flush." The other time he could have won a championship was in '64, Buckner's final season.
In '63, when Buckner was a freshman, Scooba went 10-1-1 and was ranked seventh in the national J.C. rankings although, wouldn't you know it, Pearl River still won the conference. But with Buckner back in '64, Scooba was even more formidable, winning its first eight games and climbing all the way to No.3 in the country. Scooba was a lock to be invited to the Junior Rose Bowl if it kept winning. Scooba was going to come out of nowhere and show California football that Scooba was 15 to 20 years ahead of its time. Buckner was already a J.C. All-America. He had thrown for 39 touchdowns and almost 5,000 yards in 20 games. Further, he was Mr. Everything: president of the student body, head of the local branch of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Scooba's ninth opponent was Jones Junior College, the top defensive team in the conference. With a 6-1 record, Jones had lost only to Pearl River, by 6-0. It was homecoming at Scooba, and the festive crowd of 4,000 overflowed the stands, whose normal capacity was 3,000. Buckner didn't disappoint anyone, either. On the game's first offensive series, second-and-one on his own 40, he called an audible and struck with a touchdown pass to George Belvin. Sixty yards, just like that, for his 40th TD toss. Only 2:11 gone, and Scooba was up by seven. On to Pasadena!
Not only that, but Scooba held Jones and got the ball right back. Buckner had had such an outstanding career that all week Mississippi had been buzzing with rumors that Jones was out to get Buckner. However, Bull Cyclone had his charges ready. He put them through the toughest week of practices any of them had ever experienced. One day, Bull Cyclone even lashed out at Buckner, and pulled him from the starting lineup. Benching the greatest quarterback in junior-college ball was ludicrous, of course, but Bull Cyclone was bringing everything to a boil. "That man had a gift to know," Buckner says now.
But at the time Buckner was simply distraught. That night he left his room in The Alamo and went outside, thinking he might keep right on going. A mattress was airing out on a fence, and Buckner lit into it, pummeling it, harder, harder, harder, all his anger and frustrations pouring out. A man has to wonder if Bull Cyclone might not have heard all the commotion and come to his window and watched, smiling, content.
The next day, Buckner was still second string.
Only, as soon as the other quarterback made an error, Bull Cyclone was all over him--"Get out of my -huddle! Get out my ---- life!"--and Buckner was back in the saddle. They were getting ready for Jones and then the Junior Rose Bowl. Coach Sullivan didn't have much more to tell Buckner, except throw the ball and throw it away if pressured.
So it was 7-0 Scooba. Buckner was back to pass again, and the Jones defenders rushed in. Instead of lobbing the ball far away, he thought he saw a way to salvage the play and scrambled. He ducked this way and that, but two Jones linemen were still closing in on him. "Throw it away!" Bull Cyclone hollered. "Throw it away! Get rid of it!"
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 March 2008 )|
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