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Like his dad, UNI's Ray Buchanan Jr. doesn't mind a little on-field trash talk

Defensive back juggles marriage, fatherhood and school

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CEDAR FALLS — The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Ray Buchanan was known as quite the trash talker during his 12-year career in the National Football League. One of the kings.

He once said Denver Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe looked like a horse, calling him ugly and “Mr. Ed.” He wore a dog collar to Super Bowl media day in 1999 because everyone felt his Atlanta Falcons were underdogs.

Classic stuff that his oldest son, Ray Jr., hasn’t completely mimicked during his football career. On the other hand, the Northern Iowa defensive back doesn’t exactly shy away from a good on-field conversation when one presents itself, either.

“My dad was a real big talker. That’s one of the things, ever since high school, I actually played offense, but once I started playing defense, I got into that mindset, too,” said Buchanan, whose Panthers (1-2) host Southern Illinois (2-1) in a Missouri Valley Conference opener Saturday afternoon at 4. “In practice, I really wouldn’t talk much, but when games came around, I like competing against receivers. I like receivers that will talk back to me. It gets you into that mode, gets the juices flowing.”

Buchanan Jr. said he has fond memories of his father’s NFL career. Though he was very young, he remembers bits and pieces of the Super Bowl, remembers going out to eat after games with Charles Woodson and some of his dad’s other teammates with the Oakland Raiders.

It’s surprising to learn Buchanan Sr. did virtually everything he could to dissuade his sons, Ray Jr. and Baylen, from playing football. Baylen Buchanan is a freshman defensive back at the University of Tennessee.

“With football, the contact and the long-term effects it has if you’re not careful, concussions and all that stuff, he didn’t really tell us that stuff back then,” Buchanan Jr. said. “He just wanted us to be ourselves, to figure out what we wanted to be. At an early age, we wanted to play football and kind of follow in his footsteps.”

Buchanan Jr. began his college career at Arkansas but got caught up in a coaching change (Bobby Petrino was let go after the 2012 season and replaced by Bret Bielema) and didn’t play for two years. He was red-shirted as a freshman out of Peachtree Ridge High School in suburban Atlanta, then didn’t see the field at all as a red-shirt frosh.

Looking for a new home, he came upon Northern Iowa, where he has essentially been a special teams player and reserve cornerback. Injuries to his foot and knee have hampered him this season.

“I feel better, feel like I’m starting to get my confidence back,” he said.

Buchanan Jr. married his high-school sweetheart, Madison, this past January, and they have a six-month old son, Camden. Even if things aren’t going particularly well on the football field, coming home to a wife and baby makes things better.

Chaotic, but better.

“Oh, my. At first, it didn’t really hit me,” Buchanan said. “Just with school, having a family and everything, you’ve just got to manage your time really well. Make sure you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do. No more hanging out with your friends and all that. I think it’s really helped me as well on the football field. All that kind of correlates together. I can’t let what happens outside of the house affect in the house.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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