Sept. 25, 2013
ACC Release: 2013 Football Championship Game Legends Class
RALEIGH, N.C. - Dave Buckey and Don Buckey. It’s hard to picture one without the other.
The twins grew up together in Akron, Ohio, roomed and played together at NC State, and for years have worked at the same company, L&M Transportation Services in Raleigh.
They also are married to cousins, live five minutes apart, and hold season-ticket seats on the same row at Carter-Finley Stadium.
So it seems only fitting that both will be honored as NC State Legends at the ACC’s Football Championship game in December.
“I wouldn’t feel right (being recognized) without Don,’’ Dave said.
“Being honored with Dave is especially satisfying -- and appropriate,’’ Don added. “I think we complemented each other well and were probably much better together than individually.”
Since the ACC began its football Legends program in 2005, one player from each conference school has been selected annually -- until now.
The Buckeys are an exception -- brothers who have been virtually inseparable since birth and who were exceptional athletes.
They initially considered going to Navy or Kent State, but signed with NC State in 1972 after an eye-opening campus visit and seeing film of coach Lou Holtz’ electric offense. Turns out, the twins were a perfect fit for the Pack’s Twin Veer scheme.
Dave, calm, cool and calculative, excelled at quarterback. Don starred at wide receiver and both made major contributions to State’s 33-12-3 record between 1972 and ‘75.
The Buckey boys set multiple school records, one passing, one catching, and helped State produce the best four-year winning percentage (71.8) in program history.
Their teams went to four bowls, earned a No. 9 final UPI ranking, won an ACC championship and beat powerful Penn State twice.
During that scintillating period Dave collected a Peach Bowl MVP award his freshman year, made All-ACC as a senior, and set a Wolfpack passing efficiency mark that stood for 30 years.
Don was an All-ACC and first team All-America performer as a senior, led State in receiving three seasons and averaged 17 yards per catch. On a negative note, both suffered a broken nose playing for the Pack.
The brothers settled on their positions at an early age. It happened when a youth coach asked those who wanted to play quarterback to stand in a line near him.
“I was two steps away, so I stepped in that line,’’ Dave said.
Moments later Don jumped in the QB line, but saw Dave ahead of him, and thought, “this isn’t going to work.” So he moved to the receivers group.
“We have never done any second guessing,” Don said. “I think he ended up where he was supposed to be and I ended up where I was supposed to be.”
Who can disagree?
In four seasons Don caught 102 passes for 1,735 yards, averaged 17 yards per reception, and left ranking among the Pack’s all-time leading receivers.
Dave completed 58.6 percent of his career throws for 4,286 yards. And in ’74, when State won the conference championship, he connected on 105 of 162 attempts for a 64.8 accuracy mark.
“They knew one another,” Lou Holtz said, noting that when Dave had to have a completion he could trust throwing to his brother. “Dave knew when to pitch it, when to keep it. He didn’t have a real strong arm, but threw a nice ball that was easy to catch.
“Don was an underrated receiver,’’ added Holtz, who could remember his ace receiver dropping only one pass, which was thrown a little low.
If Holtz had arrived at State earlier in ‘72 he likely wouldn’t have signed the undersized Buckeys who weighed about 160 pounds each in high school.
“Getting there late it was difficult to recruit people,’’ said Holtz, who at that time was almost compelled to take players who were a little smaller or a bit slower.
He watched film, was impressed with Dave in an All-Star game, and wound up signing an unforgettable Brothers Act.
Being twins and talented, the Buckeys received lots of publicity, which included gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated as freshmen. That could have created dissension, considering the multiple veteran stars State already had on the team.
But “It turned out positive for the program,’’ Holtz said and noted that both Dave and Don were “great teammates.”
They were surrounded by strong, talented linemen and superb running backs and guided by a witty and wise coach. Don called Holtz “a master motivator and great X’s and O’s coach and play caller. He made us believe we could ... beat teams we probably never could have without him.”
Growing up in Akron, the twins competed against each other. But Dave said their father made sure it was always done in a positive way.
As a result, their brotherly love remained strong.
“Whatever we competed in, it was back and forth,” Dave said. “In baseball we always hit within five to seven points of each other. Our GPA (in high school) couldn’t have been .500ths of a point difference.”
They admired each other and worked on the same wavelength, certainly as a quarterback-receiver combination.
For example, if Don had to improvise on a pass route, Dave knew his brother’s tendencies and could adjust. It was as if both had a sixth sense about what the other was thinking.
“(Dave’s) the best I’ve ever seen at what he did -- a great option quarterback who passed with pinpoint accuracy, especially when you consider in those days, he was throwing the ball downfield without many dinks and dunks to running backs,” Don explained.
“Don ran pass routes as well as any receiver I’ve ever seen,’’ said Dave, who still has vivid memories of some of his biggest catches
There was the grab against Carolina that resulted in a key first down, which kept a scoring drive alive and contributed to an eventual Pack victory.
There was a “Hail Mary” against Wake Forest when Don went up between two defenders, and with his body contorted and arms outstretched, clutched the ball. There were other highlight-reel moments.
Both, not surprisingly, also graduated from State with degrees in economics and and business management and were drafted by the New York Jets.
Just as they baffled opponents in the 1970s, they still baffle some people today by their look-a-alike, talk-a-like traits.
“Even our wives sometime have trouble telling us apart on the phone,’’ Dave said.
Speaking of family, Dave and Anna married in 1995 and have three children together, and she has two from a previous marriage. Don and Elaine, a former Wolfpack cheerleader, have celebrated 37 years together.
The twins are 60 now, former star athletes who became solid citizens. Much of Dave’s life revolves around church at Hayes Barton United Methodist, family, work, and following State football.
Don’s routine is similar -- church at Hyller Memorial Christian, family, work, State football, plus a lofty hobby, flying. He got his pilot’s license several years ago and enjoys exploring the friendly skies with Elaine. And, of course, Dave has flown with him occasionally.
The twins and Wolfpack Legends are still together, still flying high.
By A.J. Carr