Close Encounters With A Chiefs Legend: Buck Buchanan

From The FanPosts  -Joel

When I was 10 years old, Buck Buchanan was my favorite Chief. The year was 1970, and the Chiefs had just stomped the Raiders in the AFL Championship game en route to a victory in Super Bowl IV, so when my dad decided to take us down to old Municipal airport, to welcome home the Champions of the AFL, I was excited.

We waited in the mob for the players to file off the plane, and when the giant Buck Buchanan emerged and began to co-mingle with the fans and sign autographs, I was in awe. I was dying to get Buck's attention, just to say "nice game Buck", and to get his autograph, but quickly realized I had no paper for him to sign.

Glancing around the terminal, I noticed an old wooden yardstick that someone had thrown away, sticking out of a trash can. Thinking on my feet, I blitzed over to it, snapped it up, ran back, and began pushing my way through the crowd toward the front, waving the tool over my head and yelling, "Buck, Buck, Buck".  The yardstick quickly caught his eye and noticing my dilemma....he immediately ceased to sign for the adults, reached over the crowd and clutched his giant hand around the stick......"What's your name buddy?"  He then signed the stick, and handed it back over the greedy mob to me, and said, "Thanks for coming out to meet me."

Other than watching the man at old Municipal and on TV, that was the first close encounter with my childhood idol...and the legend which was Junious "Buck" Buchanan.

Second close encounter: Distance away...about 20 feet.

Fast forward:  Chrismas Day, 1971.  Old Municipal.  It was the longest game ever played in the NFL.  We were sitting in the Wolfpack, the old wooden bleacher seats, with our blankets, thermal mugs, and brought from home sandwiches, stomping our feet on the floorboards, making the earth tremble under our feet.  The sound of it was deafening. 

We were on the Chiefs sideline and there was about an 8 foot span of boardwalk between the bleachers and the railing that separated the fans from the Chiefs players.   If you walked up to the railing, the player's bench was only maybe 10 or 15 feet away.  Of course, being 11 years old.....I wanted to be as close to the Chiefs players as I could get, so I ventured down under the watchful eye of my parents and stood at the rail, listening to the players banter.

Then something happened that I'll never forget.

Buck emerged after a play to the sideline, and was standing about 15 feet away, his back to me, watching the field of play, when a Dolphin, who remains unidentified to me to this day came up to Buck and started mouthing and getting right up in his face.   I couldn't make out what he was saying, but I remember thinking, he's a very brave man.  Buck turned toward him, and appeared to be listening with no visible irritation or response at the animated Dolphin. 

Then, it happened.  In the blink of an eye, I watched Buck's right elbow rise swiftly from his hip, swing up and forward and explode through the player's faceguard... cracking his nose, and sending faceguard and helmet parts flying all over the surrounding square footage. 

The unidentified Dolphin simply fell straight back landing flat on his back, and remained motionless for several moments. I was flabbergasted.

Buck was THE man.

He just turned and walked away, even as the guy was falling unconscious toward the ground.... then some Chiefs players....without appearing overly concerned as to his health, helped the player to his feet, and pointed him in the direction of the opposing bench.

With a lite push from our smiling Chiefs, he staggered across the field to familiar territory.   No flags, no penalties, no fines ever assessed.....hell, noone really even seemed to notice but me and the players on the bench.  To my knowledge..... it was never caught on tape or reported about in the newspaper and I have yet to see anything in print about it since.....except what I'm writing here now.

And finally.....

Close encounter number 3:  Distance away:  1 foot.

About 20 years later, in 1988 or 89, when I was roughly 30, I was with my Dad in Overland Park, and we got on an elevator, just the two of us, when a rugged leathered hand slid between the doors preventing them from closing. The doors popped back open with a chime, and in stepped the legend with a big smile.

We knew immediately it was Buck.

My dad began to banter with him, and I was largely silent, because my Dad actually knew him from community related events they'd both attended, and they were exchanging niceties.  It was only a ride from the 3rd to the 1st floor, and was over quickly....the doors opened....and he was gone before I could say "Hall of Famer". 

As he disappeard into the Kansas City sunshine, I couldn't help but kick myself for not asking him, if he remembered the kid with the yardstick at the airport, or just who that Dolphin was at The Longest Day.  I sure wish I had asked him those questions during this third encounter....but it was not to be.

I think possibly because I know, how it struck us both, how frail he looked that day....compared to his glory days.....and we looked at each other, preferring not to speak about it, and to be was a pretty quiet car ride home. Of course, we now know, he must have had it then.

Buck Buchanan was diagnosed with lung cancer a week before his Hall of Fame induction and passed away in his Kansas City home, on July 16th, 1992, 13 days before my 33rd birthday.

I'm now turning 51, same age as Mr. Buchanan at the time of his death and  I can only reflect on my years and wonder if my life to this point has inspired anyone as much as Buck's did mine.

.......I doubt it.

Here's to you Buck...and ........ "Thanks...for the memories."


Postscript: If anyone has any knowledge of or witnessed the decking of the Dolphin by Buck on the Chiefs sideline at The Longest Day, I'd like to know who the player was, what you saw and so forth, so we can compare notes. Thanks.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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