When Phillip Buchanon showed up at the 1998 Nike Football Camp in Miami, he wasn’t having the greatest day. “I was actually mad because I was late,” he says, “and I wanted to play receiver but they made me play defensive back.” Buchanon played just about every position at some point or another during his time at Lehigh Senior High School in Florida and excelled at most of them, but it was a guy he lined up across from at that Miami camp who got him locked into the cornerback position for the rest of his career — a tall wide receiver from Miami Senior High School who was considered one of the best in the country.
The guy’s name was Andre Johnson, and the coaches not only wanted Buchanon to play defensive back, they wanted him to cover Johnson.
“The first time I was guarding Andre,” Buchanon says, “I noticed that he was a big receiver but I did not know he was that fast. He ran a go ball on me, and I was like, ‘Aw, man, he’s big AND fast,’ so he kept me on my P’s and Q’s. That was the biggest memory from that camp.”
That memory makes it sound like Buchanon was beaten soundly, but that wasn’t really the case. In fact, the stories that came out of that camp are what brought him to the attention of the University of Miami and put him firmly on the path to being a pro player.
It also gave him, oddly enough, a new friend in Johnson. “You gotta think,” Buchanon explains, “we played at Nike camp together; I was the top DB, he was the top receiver, so we were matched up the whole day, the whole dang camp. So it’s been ever since then. His mom and my mom talked about it, and I went to Miami, he went to Miami, and we became friends. We were always around each other.”
Which means — given that the Redskins are lining up against Johnson’s Houston Texans this Sunday — that Buchanon has some knowledge that could be useful to the guys in his defensive backfield. “Maybe,” he says. “If Carlos (Rogers) and DeAngelo (Hall) wanna ask me I’ll definitely tell them some of his moves and stuff that he does.”
It’s not something that Buchanon considers out of bounds, in the culture of football — “I mean, I’m not ratting him out,” he says, in response to reporter’s question, “I’m just trying to help the team here,” — but he’s also not sure how much good it does to know a few of Johnson’s moves.
“Whether you know it or not what he’s doing, he can still make things happen,” Buchanon says. He explains Johnson’s skills like this:
“His numbers speak for themselves,” Buchanon says.”Like they say, numbers don’t lie. 1,500 yards back-to-back years, he’s a Hall of Famer, a Pro Bowler, he does it all. He’s been doin’ it since high school. And he’s a hell of a guy. He doesn’t cause any confusion with the coaches and players, he’s very quiet, very low-key, and he just plays football.”
Asked how to stop him, Buchanon falls back on an oldie-but-goodie: “We hope to contain him, you know?”
The duo’s friendship might make Buchanon’s knowledge more valuable, but it doesn’t make him any more excited for the game. “Man, I’m excited to play ANY game so I can make some plays,” he says eagerly. “I’m just hungry to make some plays right now.”
Going against one of the top offenses in the league last year, he should have his chance.
Tags: andre johnson, phillip buchanon
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