Buckram’s feat against Houston best ever at UTEP
If you happen to run into Donald Buckram in street clothes you’ll see a good-looking young man with a smile as pleasant and engaging as an early El Paso morning. You’d never guess that when he puts on a football uniform he’s a whirling dervish, a zigzagging lightning bolt, a ball in a pinball machine, a speeding bullet.
He was all that and more last weekend as he ran through, bounced off, ran around and hopped over tacklers on the way to 262 yards, four touchdowns and a 58-41 UTEP victory over University of Houston.
Considering the opposition it was easily the greatest performance by a running back in the history of UTEP football.
YES, THERE was a game in which another Miner running back gained more yards, but that game was more like an exhibition contest.
It happened in 1948. The late Jack Curtice, football coach of the Miners then, was an ambitious fellow who wanted to draw national attention to the team and himself. He saw his chance against New Mexico State. The Miners were loaded with talent, many of the players being veterans of World War II, while New Mexico State had not yet recovered from the war and had an extremely weak team.
WHAT HAPPENED in that game will forever be a black mark in the history of UTEP football. Curtice unashamedly piled it on the Aggies. He had a great senior back in Fred Wendt and Curtice fed him the ball until he set a national record of 326 yards.
The Aggie coach stood by helplessly during the 92-7 massacre but he did make one cogent comment. He said, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a coach leave its first team in late in the game while leading 69 to 7.”
This is no knock on Wendt, who ironically had been born in Las Cruces. He was only doing what his coach told him. And he had such good games against other teams that he was named All-America honorable mention and a first-team Little All-American.
BY CONTRAST, Buckram’s performance of 262 yards came against a heavily favored opponent. Houston came into last week’s game at the Sun Bowl undefeated with victories over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and ranked 12th in the nation.
I wanted to learn more about this remarkable young man so I cornered him for a one-on-one talk. I quickly learned he’s no flash in the pan. He scored 26 touchdowns for his high school team in Copperas Cove, Texas. He might have shown his super star quality at UTEP last year save for an injury that kept him on the sidelines.
I ASKED HIM what he thinks is his greatest asset as a running back. He pointed to both his eyes and smiled. “Vision,” he said, “You have to see the holes (in the line).” He went on to say that included peripheral vision and the ability to adjust and cut when a hole closes. Of course he gives great credit to the UTEP offensive line that has been a big surprise this year.
Buckram is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs 185 pounds, runs 40 yards in a blazing 4.4 seconds, is married and has an 18-month old daughter.
He’s only a junior and we’ll be seeing him perform in many more games. And how sweet does that sound?
There have been a lot of photos of him in football uniform but I thought you’d like to see what he looks like in person so I took a close-up photo of him to go along with this column.
He’s such a personable young man that after our talk he smiled, thanked me, shook my hand and gave me a hug, much to my delight.
Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com