Through much of a four-year career at Washington State filled with more hard knocks than rewards, safety Deone Bucannon was a stoic figure who didn’t betray a lot of emotion.
But it all poured out in front of ESPN cameras Thursday night when Bucannon, at home in Fairfield, Calif., discovered he was a first-round NFL draft pick by Arizona, chosen No. 27 overall by the Cardinals. Bucannon fought back tears as he hugged family members.
“It’s truly a blessing,” Bucannon said on a late-evening conference call. “All that ran through my mind was how thankful I was — just my emotions, all the work I put in, and all the work I still have left to go.”
Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, even pronounced the first name right: Day-OHN.
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It’s the Cougars’ highest draft pick since 2003, when cornerback Marcus Trufant was nabbed at No. 11 overall by the Seahawks. WSU hadn’t had a player picked as high as the third round since receiver Jason Hill went at that juncture in 2007.
Arizona’s safety picture appears open to Bucannon. Yeremiah Bell, last year’s starter at one spot, hasn’t re-signed and may retire, and Tyrann Mathieu is recovering from December knee surgery.
In reference to Bucannon’s big-hitting reputation, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians told reporters, “We’ll give him opportunities to knock the crap out of people.” To which Bucannon responded: “That’s all I can ask for. Whatever they need me to do, whether it’s stick my nose in front of a pulling guard, or special teams.”
Bucannon got the routine heads-up call from the Cardinals before they drafted him. Asked what was said in the conversations, Bucannon admitted: “A lot of it, I didn’t hear. I was just overcome with emotion.”
It was a bit of a storybook ascent for Bucannon, a three-star prospect out of a Northern California high school recruited primarily by then-defensive coordinator Chris Ball under former coach Paul Wulff. Only in his senior season did Bucannon play on a bowl team, but he left WSU with the second-most solo tackles (268) in school history.
Between his junior and senior years, Bucannon put on 15-20 solid pounds and used all 211 to develop a reputation as a physical safety. But he wasn’t considered exceptional in coverage, and even as his 2013 All-American season wound down, he was considered a probable second- or third-round pick.
But he stayed on an uptick, turning in a solid Senior Bowl week and an excellent NFL combine in February. He ran a brisk 4.48 in the 40, which ranked third among safeties and No. 13 among all defensive backs.
Referring to the move up the draft boards after his season, Bucannon said, “I just wanted to go in there and do my best in everything I was invited to — the Senior Bowl and the combine.”