Former Carver, Clemson and NFL star Brentson Buckner wore a hat with the word “faith” printed across the front on Friday at a ceremony in Carver High’s gymnasium.
He and three other former Carver players were presenting golden balls to the school from the NFL to commemorate their participation in a Super Bowl. He was joined by Roderick Hood (Class of 1999), D.J. Jones (Class of 1980) and a family member of Nate Odomes (Class of 1983) who was unable to attend the ceremony.
Each person spoke about the family that is Carver High, how coaches, teachers and former players had helped them reach the pinnacle of professional football. But it was Buckner, who is now the defensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals, whose emotion got the best of him.
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Stopping twice to rub the corners of his eyes, stifling tears and even once pounding the commemorative football into the podium, Buckner delivered a message about faith and dreaming big to students at the school.
“I’ve been a professional in everything I’ve done against all the odds,” said Buckner, who played in two Super Bowls. “‘You won’t go to college,’ they said. I became an All-American, graduated with a degree in English. ‘Well, you won’t get drafted.’ I got drafted in the second round. ‘Well, you won’t stay long.’ I played 12 years. ‘You won’t go to the Super Bowl.’ I went to two. ‘Well, when you’re done, you won’t do nothing.’ I’ve been a professional on ESPN, the NFL Network, and now I’m the defensive line coach for the Arizona Cardinals.
“Every stage of life you want to go through, I’ve been there. But I can tell you one thing: You can dream all you want to, but a dream without a plan is nothing but a wish.”
Speaking after the ceremony, Buckner explained how people expected students from Carver to fail, but that his coaches and teachers would never let him give up.
“All the things that we went through — people trying to get us not to come to school (at Carver), practicing on the field and people driving by and throwing bottles at us, not having the best this or that,” Buckner said. “But it was never allowed to be our story. Teachers said to let it be our testimony one day that through all this, we still made it.”
Those four players participated in a total of nine Super Bowls. Buckner played in Super Bowl XXX (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Super Bowl XXXVIII (Carolina Panthers), Hood played in Super Bowl XXXIX (Philadelphia Eagles) and Super Bowl XLIII (Arizona Cardinals), and Odomes played in Super Bowls XXV, XXVI, XXVII and XXVIII (Buffalo Bills). Jones was inactive on the injured list for the Denver Broncos when they played in Super Bowl XXI.
And, as Jones pointed out at the end of the ceremony, there are five more former Carver players in the NFL now: Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns), Chris Hubbard (Pittsburgh Steelers), Jarvis Jones (Pittsburgh Steelers), Corey Crawford (Washington Redskins) and Gabe Wright (Detroit Lions).
Hood, who made it to the NFL the hard way — walking on at Auburn and being an undrafted free agent out of college — said it was an honor to come back to honor that rich history.
“It’s a great family,” he said. “Great coaches. I was glad to be able to present a ball to them.”
And Buckner also presented a call to action to the current students.
“I know I made it because of the work they put in,” he said, referring to past Tigers athletes. “And I challenge you: Don’t let that die.”