A Quiet Leader

Quick, name the fastest player on the USC roster. I'll give you a hint: he can play multiple positions, and his last name starts with a "B." If you said Reggie Bush, you're close. He's the second fastest Trojan. Meet William Buchanon, the wide receiver turned cornerback…turned wide receiver. But you would never know just how quick he is; Buchanon isn't one to tout his own accomplishments.

"I ran a 4.26 (in the 40-yard dash) in the summer," he said, though he didn't volunteer the fastest Trojan part of the story without being prodded. "I don't talk about it though. It's not a big deal. It's not like me to talk about that stuff." And that pretty much sums up Will Buchanon: he quietly goes about his business, does his part to help the team, and never seeks personal recognition.

By all accounts, Will was destined to play football. His father, Willie, was a 1971 All-American at San Diego State before playing in 3 Pro Bowls during an 11-year NFL career. With genes like that come expectations. You would think that would put added pressure on Will, but according to him, that's not the case.

"I don't see it as extra pressure, no. He's someone I can talk to about football, but there's no added pressure."

Pressure or not, Buchanon wasted no time in making a name for himself. During his years at Oceanside High School, he caught more than ninety passes, averaging almost twenty yards per reception. On defense, he intercepted five passes and returned one for a score. In 2000, his senior season, he was named a Super Prep All-American, and was the co-MVP of the Avocado League. Then came the recruiting process.

"I wanted to go someplace that was still close to home, but far enough away to be on my own," he said. "I definitely wanted to stay in California. It really came down to USC and UCLA. When I visited, I don't know, I guess I was just feeling SC more. It felt right. And no regrets, obviously."

And thus began William's long cardinal and gold journey through college football. It's had its ups and its downs, but throughout it all, he has remained positive.

In his first couple years on campus, Will simply couldn't shake the injury bug. As a freshman, he was able to get his feet wet in USC's first two games, but a lower back sprain held him out the rest of the season. It wasn't exactly the way Buchanon had imagined his career beginning.

"It was tough, man. That back injury was early, I ended up redshirting. I couldn't even practice until bowl preparations. It was really hard." As if that wasn't hard enough, William had to stand by and watch his teammates lose a close game to Utah, 10-6, in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The next season took on a different feel. Preseason injuries led to depth concerns at cornerback, and Buchanon was switched to defense. In USC's third game, at Kansas State, starting corner Ronald Nunn went down, and Will was tossed into the fire. It was a learning experience for the entire team, as a late rally came up just short. But Will took the loss personally.

"That K-State game a few years ago is probably my least favorite memory as a Trojan. I wish I could've done more to help my team. I was a freshman, and it was just a tough game. It's not a fun one to think about."

Despite the loss, the Trojans went on to finish 11-2, and #4 in the country. An Orange Bowl victory over Iowa capped the dream season. It was USC's announcement to the college football world that the sleeping giant had awoken…Troy was back, and Will had been a part of it.

In 2003, the coaching staff switched Will back to offense midseason, and he never complained.

"Wide receiver is my first love. But I really enjoy playing DB too, so wherever they need me, I'm happy to play. I can't say that I favor one over the other, just whatever they need." Unfortunately, for the third season in a row, William suffered a serious injury when he sprained his back prior to the Washington State game (he had also sprained his neck in the 2002 season).

Luckily, since that time Buchanon has remained relatively injury free. He has also found a home at wide receiver, where he has stayed since 2003.

As William matured into an upper classman, he realized that the younger players would be looking to him, and the other older players, to set the example. And he has embraced that role with his work ethic, not his mouth. Will understands that actions speak louder than words, and he has dedicated himself to this team. Hard work is what earns you respect in Troy, and there's a reason Will's teammates admire him. The 2005 season brought Will's favorite memory as a football player, and one that Trojan students, fans, and alums will not soon forget. October 15th in South Bend, Indiana. The streak on the line. The rivalry restored to its previous level of glory. The nation watching. We all know what happened.

"Celebrating on the field after the Notre Dame game, that was the best moment of my career," Buchanon said. "We sealed the victory, it was incredible. I can't even describe it. Just an amazing feeling."

It's a story he will be telling his grandchildren one day. Heck, it's a story we fans will be telling our grandchildren, and most of us weren't lucky enough to be there.

As great as that day was though, Will prefers to look forward: "We've still got one more left to finish this thing," he said. January 4th in Pasadena, the Trojans will be shooting for history. The hype has already spiraled out of control, and this year's team is being compared with some of the all time greats. But the attention doesn't phase Buchanon or his teammates.

"It's not hard to stay focused. I don't even think about the streak. I didn't even know it was at 34 straight games until I saw it on the news the other day. We don't talk about it, because it doesn't matter. The next game is what counts."

Speaking of the next game, what does USC have to do to beat the Longhorns? According to Will, it takes more of the same.

"We prepare like we always do. We treat every game the same. It's not about the other team or where the game is played. It's about us. We have to do the little stuff right. D-line shooting gaps, receivers hanging onto passes, and all that. We do the little stuff right, pay attention to the details, and hopefully the victory takes care of itself."

Following the Rose Bowl, and what hopefully will be his third national title, Will plans to begin a workout regiment designed to get him ready for the NFL combine.

"After the game I'll take about a week off, then go back home to start working with a trainer. I have to get ready for the combine and that stuff. So hopefully that all works out. That'd be nice. And if not, I'll probably get into real estate in the San Diego area. That's the other plan."

NFL or real estate, Trojan fans will be wishing Will the best of luck in his future endeavors. He's been through ups and downs, offense and defense, wins and (thankfully) very few losses. He has always worked hard and earned his way. And as his collegiate career draws to a close, Will has some words of advice for future Trojans: "Work hard. Bust your butt and listen to the coaches. It takes awhile to adjust to the time demands of playing and schoolwork, but once you do, it's alright. Most importantly, cherish your four years here, because it'll fly by and you don't get it back."

No matter what happens on the fourth of January, Troy is proud to call Will one of their own. He's embodied the Trojan spirit, and represented USC with class. Fight on, William!

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