Buckner's memorable last home game

Coming out of high school in Arkansas, Robbie Buckner was considered a top-10 athlete in the state. Although there were high expectations for Buckner, his college career never panned out as hoped or expected. Last Saturday, Buckner received an opportunity to start against the Vandals of Idaho and made the most of it.

With Jordan Johnson serving a one-game suspension last week, Robbie Buckner knew he would be starting against Idaho the Monday leading up to the game.

"Coach Howell told me that I was going to start," said Buckner. "Again, you know, I was wishing Jordan [Johnson] was there because the DBs, we're a very close bunch back there."

So, being a senior playing in his last home game, Buckner made the most of the opportunity in front of his family. He played his heart out and left everything he had out on the field on a cold night in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"I've been waiting forever for that ever since I got here, but, you know, you don't get those opportunities very often," Buckner said. "But, whenever you get them you have to take advantage of them. Luckily, I got two of them."

Those two opportunities Buckner referred to were two chances at getting an interception. He dropped what would have been an easy pick, but made up for it later in the game by making what was a more difficult interception.

"Naturally, that's why I don't play receiver, you know?" said Buckner with a smile. "But, those cold-weather gloves weren't good to me. I switched them and ended up making the catch. I'm not going to blame the gloves, but you know, I think it was just one of those things where it was, ‘That's coming right to me.' It was just too easy. I wanted a challenge I guess.

"It was a great environment, but I had my family there and my wife. My aunt and uncle came up. You know, I'm going to remember it for the rest of my life, no doubt, being able to get a pick. I guess you can say I got a pass breakup, a pick and a tackle."

It was a memorable performance for his last home game.

"It made it great. I was so happy after the game," said Buckner. "I don't think I went to sleep till 4:00 [in the morning]. My wife was super excited, my family, my brother."

Buckner did, however, receive some good-natured ribbing from some of his past teammates after missing that first interception.

"I had a bunch of calls and a bunch of texts," he said. "People back in Arkansas were saying first, ‘You should have gotten that pick.' Then it was like, ‘Nice game.' Then Corby Eason texted me, then Ben Criddle texted me saying, ‘Hey man, you gotta catch that.' I was like, ‘Yeah, I know.' It was a great experience for me."

And of course there was the support as well. Standing on the sideline was the player he replaced, Jordan Johnson, cheering him on.

"Being on the sidelines, he was super supportive of me, and, you know, I think he wanted to see me get pick just as much as he wanted one," Buckner said.

To really understand how important this game was to Buckner, one has to turn the clock back in time. Over the summer, Buckner wasn't sure if he would ever see the field again, let alone if he would ever see his next sunrise.

Buckner was diagnosed with testicular cancer over the summer, a disease that hits about 8,000 males between 20-39 years of age every year across the country.

"You know what, mentally it was super tough," Buckner said. "It's still kind of tough on me just because I usually think, ‘What if it comes back?' But I have to live in the moment. I can't think about what's in the past, but what's now. I have to still try and get over it but be thankful that I'm still here."

His cancer scare was the latest – and most severe – in a series of setbacks for Bucker over the years. In past years he had some injury issues that kept him off the field.

"Yeah, it's been ups and downs and injuries. Sometimes it's been not taking advantage of opportunities that I've had, but, you know, I wouldn't change it for the world. I always say, especially after having cancer over the summer, that everything happens for a reason."

The experiences he's been through made his last opportunity to play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of his family even more special.

"On Saturday I was out there playing as hard as I could just because I'm not going to get many more opportunities," said a somber Buckner. "I know how precious they are, you know, not playing in very many games. When you get that chance, you just want to go out there and play. I just think I'm really blessed to be here. I'm no doubt going to miss to it."

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