Curtis Buckley's Knockout Hit

Jack BechtaContributor IAugust 27, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 23:  Safety Curtis Buckley #28 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs with the ball during a game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on October 23, 1994 in San Francisco, California.  The 49ers won 41-16.  (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

National Football Post

If you read my post this week about Curtis Buckley, a retired client of mine and special teams kamikaze, here’s a follow up.

Although this story has been told a few times, it’s worth telling again. Those who witnessed it firsthand have said it’s one of the most amazing things they’ve seen--and heard.

In Week 14 of the 1994 season, the Redskins were visiting the Buccaneers. During pregame warm-ups, Darrell Green, considered the NFL’s fastest man, began joking with Buckley at midfield, saying: “Hey, Buckley, I’m the real No. 28 around here.”

Green, my old college teammate, liked to read the program before every game to see where players were from. I’m sure he singled out Buckley because he was a Lone Star Conference alum like himself. Green is a social guy, not a troublemaker.

Next, special teams return ace Brian Mitchell got in on the jawing with Buckley. Next thing you know, Buckley blows his top and goes after Mitchell. Other players get involved, restraining Buckley from going after Mitchell. Then Mitchell and the others start laughing at Buckley.

Big mistake.

Buckley points at Mitchell and says (word for word, as witnessed by several players and coaches): “I am going to knock you out.” Not once but several times.

Mitchell calmly replies: “Bring it.”

Sure enough, on the opening kickoff, Curtis runs the Redskins gauntlet, trips, gets up and finds Mitchell, and then launches his 200-pound body into the heavier projectile going in the opposite direction with the ball.

Their collision sounds more like an explosion.

The ball is jarred loose, and Mitchell is knocked out cold on his feet. A nearby Redskins player--I believe it was Martin Bayless--stops in his tracks at the sound, fearing that Mitchell was dead. Later, he said he heard the breath leave Brian’s body and felt the vibration of the hit.

Buckley gets up with the ball, turns to an unconscious Mitchell and says: “I told you I would knock you out.”

There have been a lot of great hits on NFL special teams, but Curtis did this routinely. More impressively, he called the shot.

Buckley was not penalized for the hit, but he was later fined $7,500 for launching his body. Bucs coach Sam Wyche and others, including Mitchell, called it a clean hit.

When Mitchell woke up from the hit, he was told to sit the rest of the game. He later found his helmet and literally snuck back in. He didn’t want Curtis to get the best of him.

Special teams are often overlooked by fans and announcers. I still hate it when the TV camera follows the ball on kickoffs and punts and not the action that takes place between the warriors who reside at the bottom half of rosters.

This week’s preseason games are the most important, the most critical, auditions that players 30 through 80 will play.


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