Among the 81,500 at Clemson's Memorial Stadium for the University of Louisville's first-ever meeting with the Tigers on Saturday was former Cardinal great Ray Buchanan.
The former All-American defensive back spent a lot his time prior to the game strolling the U of L sideline visiting with head coach Bobby Petrino and other members of the Cardinals coaching staff, including safeties coach Greg Brown who coached Buchanan for two seasons during his tenure with the Atlanta Falcons.
“I'm came down here because I wanted a chance to see it,” said Buchanan, who lives about an hours drive from Clemson. “This is one of those games where Louisville can test itself – win or lose. They've had a good season so far, but this is the type of game and environment that will let you know where you are as a team.”
Buchanan's son, Baylen, a 2016 U of L commit, was making an unofficial visit with Clemson for the game. Included in the reasoning for the visit was experience 'Death Valley' and the ACC game day atmosphere. Baylen will become the third Buchanan to play for the Cardinals, joining his father and uncle Bobby, who played for Petrino during his first tenure at U of L.
“It's like we're breeding them,” Buchanan said with a laugh. “I tried to get my daughter to go up there as a cheerleader at one time, but she ended up going to Alabama – traitor. But seriously, it's one of those things were it is family. He will have family in Louisville just right up the street, so it's one of those things when it just makes sense.”
Buchanan starred at U of L under Howard Schnellenberger from 1989-1992. Among the numerous accomplishments that he earned while with the Cardinals was the Defensive MVP of the 1991 Fiesta Bowl with five tackles, a fumble recovery and a recovery of a blocked punt in the end zone as Louisville drilled Alabama 34-7.
The growth that the program has experienced since he departed for the NFL has been significant, with the move to the Atlantic Coast Conference becoming a defining moment.
“It's awesome,” Buchanan told Cardinal Authority of the new conference affiliation. “I think it's great for the entire athletic program. Tom Jurich did a real a good job building all of the athletics, but as far as football, the move to the ACC will be really big for the program. In my opinion, the ACC has the best football outside of the SEC. This gives Louisville an opportunity to play with the best every year.”
Buchanan spent 12 years in the NFL, most with the Falcons, and was a two-time All-Pro selection. He had five consecutive seasons of five or more interceptions and helped lead the Falcons to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999.
His #34 jersey is among U of L football's honored jerseys hanging at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.