Today's news was broken jointly by Steve Robertson of Genespage.com with quotes provided by Jody Demling of Cardinal Authority which covers Louisville for the Scout.com network. There has been no official announcement by Mississippi State. But Pascagoula native Buckley did visit the campus Wednesday to interview with Coach Dan Mullen. He told Demling today that he is “going home” having made the choice this morning.
“It was the toughest decision that I’ve had to make,” Buckley said. “Much tougher than I expected. Any other opportunity and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But this is tough to pass up. It’s my family.”
Buckley has coached cornerbacks the past two seasons for Bobby Petrino. The 2015 campaign ended successfully with a victory over SEC West member Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.
He is expected to take over Bulldog safeties, replacing seven-year Mullen aide and recruiting coordinator Tony Hughes who has become head coach at Jackson State.
Buckley has not lived in Mississippi since he left Pascagoula High School in 1989 as one of the state’s and South’s top-rated defensive back prospects. He went east on Interstate 10 to become a legend at Florida State and is a member of that school’s sports hall of fame. His #27 jersey was retired in 2011, one of only nine Seminoles so far to earn that distinction. He left holding the FSU record for interceptions and return yards which at the time was a NCAA record, and won the Jim Thorpe Award.
Buckley moved on to the National Football League and played 14 years, winning a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots in 2002. He retired after the 2005 season with 50 career interceptions. For good measure he played baseball at Florida State and in the Atlanta Braves system.
Buckley went back to Tallahassee as graduate strength coach to complete his degree work in 2007. Prior to returning to the ACC with Louisville he had coached cornerbacks at Akron with Terry Bowden two seasons.
Now, he is headed back to Mississippi on more than a family-visit basis. “My Mom and sisters and cousins, everybody lives within a four-hour radius. It will be nice to be back there again.”
Buckley of course chose to sign with an out-of-state program, which back in the 1980s was more the norm for the best Coast talents. But he told Demling he looks forward to recruiting Mississippi players for Mississippi State. And, of course, the SEC had its professional attractions as well for someone well-experienced with the best of ACC football.
“Besides the family thing, look at the conference thing and where the program is at. I’m excited to be back home and working with the guys there. Getting Mississippi kids here wasn’t easy, hopefully it’ll be a little easier. We’ll go right to work.”
With Buckley on board with the safeties, and Deshea Townsend returning as cornerbacks coach, Mississippi State’s secondary will have a pair of Super Bowl ring-holders working.
If this hiring proceeds as expected, it would leave the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach post yet to be filled. Mullen is on campus this week before leaving Sunday for the AFCA convention in San Antonio.