Some of the best coaches in all of sports never played a down professionally. Some weren’t even very good college players.
Bill Belichick was an average center and tight end at Wesleyan University, and Jon Gruden was a backup quarterback for the Dayton Flyers.
While being an exceptional athlete isn’t a prerequisite to being an effective teacher, it has it’s benefits.
New Bucs defensive line coach Brentson Buckner will not only bring his teaching skills to Tampa Bay, but also an impressive playing resumé as well.
“I think it gives me the opportunity, when I talk about a situation, because it hasn’t been that long ago that I played, that I can pull it up,” Buckner said on Wednesday. If I tell you to get your pads down because they’ll drive you off the ball on the double-team and you’ll get slammed, I can pull up through a 12-year career where that’s happened to me. So I’m speaking from experience and not just coach-talk. I think this generation of players is more that, ‘Show me what you’ve done.’ That’s not to say anything bad about guys that haven’t played the game. There’s some great coaches out there that never strapped on a helmet that can coach circles around me. But I think for being in a defensive line, it’s such a hard job, you’re asked to do some superhuman things by holding onto 350-pound guys and sacrificing yourself – I can show them where I did it right and I can more so show them where I did it wrong.
Buckner, a former second round pick and All-ACC lineman from Clemson, played 12 seasons in the NFL and was part of impressive and dominant lines in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Francisco and Carolina, beginning as a rookie in 1994.
“That’s my thing: Learn from my mistakes. I played 12 years and made some mistakes, technique-wise,” Buckner said. “Let me help you erase those things because I actually experienced that, and it makes you a better player. I think that’s what really helps me. Kevin Greene, a guy played with with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he said, ‘When you got into coaching you’re blessed to coach the position you actually played for a long time. Use yourself as the good and the bad example, and the guys will respect that. It will make you humanize yourself to them more easily.’ Thank God for that experience.”
Buckner has always admired the blue-collar work ethic of the Tampa Bay defense has been known for, even going back to their creamsicle days when Lee Roy Selmon, Dave Logan and others roamed the turf at Tampa Stadium, before giving way to Bucs legends like Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice.
“It goes to a certain fiber of that city, to the fans. A lot of fans have appreciation for the tough hardness of the game which usually is associated with the defense,” Buckner said. “That’s not saying offense can’t be the same way but it associated with [defense]. Pittsburgh is going to be associated with defense. They could have the leading offense in the history of the world, but that’s a defensive city.
“I think Tampa Bay, just the way it was built, those guys came in and built something special They were winning games 6-3, 3-0. I remember Warren Sapp saying, ‘Give us three points, that’s enough to win the game, we’re up 3-0 and that means it’s us.’ We start to build on that. I think you have to lay that initial foundation and have success with it. [We need to remember] that we have the Lombardi trophy in there and one of the top defenses of all time. People are going to like what they like and this city longs for that type of defense because they saw what Sapp and them did by putting that trophy in there. We have to try to duplicate that.”