Buckner puts an X through his past


Published: Sunday, August 23, 1992 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 23, 1992 at 12:00 a.m.

    CLEMSON - Clemson nose guard Brentson Buckner admits many young blacks wear shirts and hats with the insignia `X' but don't know its true meaning. "A lot do it just because it's the fashionable thing to do," Buckner said. But not Buckner. He is a student of Malcolm X. He has read numerous books about the black leader. And if that's not enough, he says will pattern this season after Malcolm X's life. Like Malcolm X, Buckner was a radical in his youth. Buckner admits that during high school and in the early part of his college career he got away with plenty of cheap shots during games. But last season Buckner finally got caught, and he says it changed his life. Buckner was ejected from the Citrus Bowl in the first half for punching California quarterback Mike Pawlawski in a pileup. Buckner says it was the most embarrassing moment in his football career. "It really hit what I had done when I got back to the locker room," Buckner said. "We were playing on national television, representing the ACC in the Citrus Bowl, and I had let my emotions get out of control. Buckner Then I watched the tape of the game, and it was even worse. They must have showed the replay and circled my arm on the screen about a thousand times." Buckner, a redshirt junior, vows to begin this season with a different attitude. He said he was influenced in part by Malcolm X. In the Clemson media guide, he lists Malcolm X, who was assassinated in 1965, as his non-sports hero. "Just before Malcolm X was killed, he was at the crossroads of his life," Buckner said. "He realized he had to make the change from a radical to a more conservative person. That's when he changed his name from Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazaz. I've read about things he went through, and I've tried to translate them to my life. I'm at the stage of my life that I have to make the change from radical to conservative." Malcolm X, a black Muslim, initially believed in the separation of races. However, late in his life, he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, and changed his viewpoint. "After he went to Mecca, he realized that the Muslim religion stretched out to anybody, whether you were a white Muslim, black Muslim or red Muslim," Buckner said. "It wasn't just for one race. He started believing that the races could be together. He was more on the same level with Martin Luther King." Last year, Buckner began wearing clothes with the `X' on them. Although he knew the `X' stood for Malcolm X, Buckner also liked to say that `X' meant "X-rated." That was the nickname of the old Buckner. That was the nickname of a player who gave us the "Brentson Boogie," a sack dance he actually spent time rehearsing; a player who pointed at opponents to embarrass them; and a player who often downgraded foes in pre-game interviews. But the new Buckner calls himself "a team player." During the summer, Buckner wrote a letter to all his teammates, stressing that the Tigers had to come together as a unit. In the letter, he placed the word "team" four times in all capital letters. "The past couple years, I've been the biggest individual player on the team," Buckner said. "To hear that word `team' and talking about playing as a team coming from me, maybe the other players will think I'm taking this serious and it will motivate them to do the same." Buckner is also letting his actions motivate the team. He reported for practice at 302 pounds, 23 under his playing weight last year. Buckner, who hopes to be down to 290 by the season opener, took off the weight during the summer by running, and cutting out red meat and soft drinks. "He's in the best shape he's ever been in," said Clemson head coach Ken Hatfield. "He's done everything so far that he said he's going to do. He's dedicated himself to work hard, become a leader on the field, and he's encouraging the young players. He's committed himself for the whole year. Since he's written that to the players, he can't lie to them." There's no question Buckner has the potential to be an all-America player. He was listed as the No. 2 nose guard in the nation by one publication. But will his days as an All-American showman be over? "As far as talking goes, it will be a much quieter Brentson," he said. `And you won't see that dance as much. But I still want to give the fans something they can take home. I'll just be more in control when I do it." Original Atex file name: BUCKNE.R

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