As the Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick in 2002, cornerback Phillip Buchanon expected immediate success on an individual level. What he didn’t expect was a chance for his team to compete in the Super Bowl in his rookie season.
Following his departure from the University of Miami after its national championship 2001 season, Buchanon joined the Raiders with the intent to succeed at the next level. His determination quickly showed in practice during the pre-season, which set the path of the flourishing season to come.
“I was excited to become involved with the team right off the bat,” Buchanon said. “The team welcomed us rookies with open arms and was eager to teach us the ropes.”
The Raiders aren’t too big on hazing, but that doesn’t mean rookies gain any leeway for their inexperience when it comes to understanding their jobs.
“I don’t know how other teams do it, but they put a lot on you real quick,” rookie tight end Doug Jolley said. “From the first mini-camp, they expect you to know everything.”
Buchanon’s speed and athletic ability proved to be exactly what the Raiders hoped for. Like fellow defensive back Charles Woodson, Buchanon’s high draft status was based on his talents in a variety of areas during his college years. Scoring on an interception, a punt return, and a fumble at the University of Miami, Buchanon also recorded 88 tackles in 32 career games for the Hurricanes. Buchanon left Miami with All-American honors and was one of the three finalists for the 2001 Mosi Tatupu Award for special teams’ excellence. During the draft, the Radiers had their eye on the former ‘Cane and immediately keyed on his ability to return punts.
At the start of the season, Buchanon practiced with the first and second teams, spending much of his time in the Raiders nickel package and covering the slot.
“He’s got all the physical tools and the athletic ability to be successful at the position,” defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnaham said. “How quickly he picks up the scheme will determine how fast his overall progress is. He does some things naturally and for his position, that makes things easier.”
Getting playing time in the secondary during the first six games, Buchanon was also used as a key punt returnee. Phillip’s biggest game of the season was at home against Tennessee on Sept. 29, where he made his first career NFL start. Buchanon did not disappoint, recording seven tackles, while knocking down two passes and notching his first career interception.
Buchanon also returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown. During the ensuing return, Buchanon handed off to running back Terry Kirby, who took the ball 79 yards for a score.
During week six of the season, Phillip made his third career start at cornerback against San Diego, which yielded a much different result. Early in the game, Buchanon injured his wrist while returning a punt, an injury that would end his season.
Buchanon is thrilled with Oakland’s success in getting to the Super Bowl, but still a little upset about not being able to play.
“I had surgery and went through rehab,” Buchanon said. “I’m a little weary about this injured reserve listing they put me on. I feel that I am fully ready to be out there and play.”
The scars on Buchanon’s wrist will heal, along with the distress he feels by not being able to aid his teammates. Rules are rules though, and he will be watching his team play for the title from the sidelines.
-You can reach Dana Strokovskyat Hoopg1rl6@aol.com