Terrell Buckley didn't go to Florida State because Bobby Bowden was the football coach. He didn't go there because the Seminoles had become a perennial national power.
He went there because of Deion Sanders.
"Deion is my hero," Buckley, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior, said earlier this season.
JTC Like his hero, Buckley is a cornerback who returns kickoffs and punts. Like his hero, Buckley often puts both feet in his mouth. And, like his hero, Buckley usually backs up what he says.
"I always speak the truth," Buckley said yesterday from Tallahassee, where top-ranked Florida State (10-0) meets No. 2 Miami (8-0) on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. "My mother always said, tell the truth, even if it hurts."
Said Florida State quarterback Casey Weldon: "A lot of us talk, but sometimes I wish he wouldn't talk so much. Buck is a great player, and he usually backs it up."
But not always. Last year, a derisive remark Buckley made before the Miami game came back to haunt the Seminoles. After saying that the former Hurricanes quarterback Craig Erickson "wasn't the best I've faced this year," Buckley, playing on an injured ankle, was burned for a couple of touchdowns in a 31-22 defeat.
Though he has toned down his act a little this week -- in part because of a case of laryngitis -- Buckley still is taking his verbal jabs. Asked if Miami's receivers are the best he's played against, Buckley said, "Outside of practice, they are."
Considering he is following in the legacy of Neon Deion, Florida State coaches have not been shocked by Buckley. Considering he recently broke the school interception record -- he has 18, including a school-record nine this year -- Buckley knows from where he speaks.
"You must realize, I have always allowed my players to talk," said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "For the most part, they have never said anything to fire anybody up. Terrell is the closest to guy who might say something that another team could use."
"He's a very confident player," said Mickey Andrews, the team's defensive coordinator and secondary coach. "Some kids are more outspoken than others. Maybe he learned from Deion."
Buckley learned a lot from Sanders, a two-time first-team All-American at Florida State. He recalled coming to a game as a senior in high school and, after watching Sanders play, thinking, "He reminds me of myself. Football is supposed to be fun. He was having a great deal of it."
Though their playing styles are different -- Sanders is bigger, while Buckley relies more on speed -- the results have been similar. Sanders picked off 14 passes, returning four for touchdowns. Buckley also has returned four interceptions for touchdowns, and has returned three punts for touchdowns.
And, like his hero, Buckley has a habit of hot-dogging after making a big play. Returning an interception of a pass by Michigan quarterback Elvis Grbac 61 yards for a touchdown Buckley showed the ball to those Wolverines chasing him.
The play, on Michigan's first offensive series, set the tone in a 51-31 win in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Sept. 28. It was the first of two interceptions by Buckley, who also watched Michigan receiver Desmond Howard solidify his Heisman Trophy candidacy with two touchdown catches.
a great player who makes big plays," said Miami coach Dennis Erickson. "He's been beaten, but who hasn't? Whether he'll go for the big play against us, I don't know. Mabye we won't go to his side of the field. Maybe we'll stay away from him."
Buckley, a second-team All-American last year and a Thorpe Award candidate this season, doesn't expect that to happen. He said that he figures on playing against all three Miami wide-outs, including his friend Lamar Thomas. Buckley called Thomas at 8 a.m Monday, and asked, 'It's here, are you ready?' " Said Thomas: "I'm ready. Are you ready?"
The Seminoles had better be. If the Florida State defense has a weakness, it's that the secondary seems a bit reckless in its coverage at times. Of the 18 touchdowns the Seminoles have surrendered this season, 12 have come through the air.
Asked if Bowden has talked a lot this week about not giving up the big play against the Hurricanes, Buckley said: "He stresses that every game. If they make a big play, we're not going to sweat it because we're going to go back and lineup and make a big play on them."
"I always thinks he gambles too much," Bowden said earlier this week. "But he also makes the big play. I am always afraid he's going to allow the big one. You worry. I say it scares me, but I really like the way he plays football."
Terrell Buckley's career stats
& ...Assisted..... Solo
Year.. tackles.. tackles.. Int.. TDs.. Punt.. Yards.. TDs
17........ 7.... 3.... 0.... 22.... 313.... 1
35........ 8.... 6.... 2.... 24.... 350.... 2
29........ 3.... 9.... 2.... 30.... 255.... 0
Totals..... 81....... 18... 18.... 4.... 76.... 918.... 3
Noon Miami at Florida State, Ch. 13
Maryland at Clemson, chs. 45 7
Boston College at Syracuse, Ch. 56
12:30 p.m. Indiana at Ohio State, ESPN
Auburn at Georgia, TBS
1 p.m. Texas Christian at Texas, HTS
2 p.m. Albany (Ga.) State vs. Fort Valley State, BET
3:30 p.m. Notre Dame at Penn State, chs. 13 7
7:30 p.m. Arkansas at Texas A&M, ESPN
10:30 p.m. Brigham Young at San Diego State, ESPN