I could write 10,000 words and still not accurately capture the scope of Terrell Buckley’s greatness.
He wasn’t just a great player — he added to the lore, legends, and myths of the greatest dynasty this sport has ever seen.
He was a multi-sport star in high school, and one in college. He’s one of the greatest athletes to come out of Mississippi.
He played football and baseball his freshman year at Florida State in 1989. He was good, and he knew it. He was ninth in the country in punt returns and was one of the few Seminole freshmen to see the field that year. He had three interceptions and five pass breakups. He also wasted no time engraving his mark on the program, including the time he orchestrated what became known as the Foolah from Pascagoula — our 33rd best play in Florida State history:
Buckley played football, baseball, and ran track as a sophomore in 1990, making 43 tackles — all with football by the way — and adding 6 more interceptions for 219 total return yards and two touchdowns. He would also average 14.6 yards per punt return on 24 returns and returned two for scores. Yes, Buckley scored four touchdowns that year, or 24 points all by himself. That’s more than LSU, South Carolina, Georgia Southern, and Memphis State scored against FSU that year combined. Buckley had almost 600 total all-purpose yards. He was named a second team All-American by the Associated Press, Football News, and The Sporting News.
By the time Buckley reached his junior year in 1991, where he again lettered in both football and track and field, he was one of the country’s best defensive backs. Buckley intercepted twelve passes that year, including that time he went into the Big House in front of 106,145 people and stole from Desmond Howard and quarterback Elvis Grbac:
That play was No. 6 in our top 100 plays in FSU history. The 51 points FSU put up that day were the most ever by an opponent at Michigan Stadium and third highest ever against Michigan, and the most against Michigan since 1958. But Buckley didn’t do all that by himself.
What he did do by himself is break Monk Bonasorte’s single-season school record for interceptions, set in 1979. It brought him up to 21 total career interceptions, also breaking Bonasorte’s career school record. Buckley became the school’s all-time leader in interception return yards, with 501. That also set a new NCAA record, breaking the standing one set in the 1970s. He tied school records for touchdowns from interception returns with four, and punt returns, with three. He was named an Unanimous All-American, one of just fifteen in FSU history, as no less than nine publications all named him a first team All-American. He finished 7th for the Heisman Trophy and was the inaugural winner of the Jack Tatum Trophy for the best collegiate defensive back. Last but not least, Buckley was awarded the preeminent Jim Thorpe Award also given annually to the country’s best defensive back.
Whew. Was that all? Oh right, he had 700 total all-purpose yards that year, giving him 1,642 for his career. He had 1,000 yards just in punt returns, at a 12.2 yard clip.
With nothing left to prove, Buckley left school early to enter the NFL. It was the right move; he was drafted with the fifth overall pick by the Green Bay Packers in 1992. He played thirteen seasons in the NFL, recording at least one interception in each one. His list of accolades include becoming the youngest player ever to return a punt for a touchdown, leading the league in interception return yards, and recording over 500 tackles and 50 interceptions. He also won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in the 2001 season, beating the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams.
Buckley was inducted into the FSU Hall of Fame in 2003 and later returned to the school and earned his degree. He also got his start in coaching with FSU in 2007, staying on through 2011. He is currently the cornerbacks coach for Mississippi State.
Oh — and there’s only two more weeks until FSU football returns.