Ole Miss’ Willis, Mississippi State coach Buckley elected to College Football Hall of Fame

Published 5:57 pm Monday, January 7, 2019

Ole Miss and Mississippi State will always have their differences, but on Monday they shared a moment together.

Former Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis and current Mississippi State assistant coach Terrell Buckley were among 15 players and coaches elected to the College Football Hall of Fame on Monday.

Willis was the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year with the Rebels in 2006. Buckley was born in Pascagoula but made his name at Florida State, where he set school records for interceptions (21) and interception return yards (501) that still stand.

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The Hall of Fame Class of 2019 will be inducted on Dec. 10, at the annual National Football Foundation awards dinner in New York.

Terrell Buckley

“No one has ever been more deserving of such an honor as Patrick Willis,” said Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke, who served on the Rebel staff during Willis’ collegiate career. “We are so proud to see Patrick continue our rich Hall of Fame tradition. He persevered through so much to excel at both the college and professional level, and he belongs among the best to ever play the game.”

Willis is the 10th Ole Miss player or coach elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. During his college career that lasted from 2003-06, he twice was named to the Associated Press All-America team. He was also selected to the most first-team All-American squads (13) ever by an Ole Miss player in a single season, among a number of publications and news services.

He finished his career with 355 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, and won the 2006 Conerly Trophy as the best player in Mississippi. He was inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame in 2015.

Willis was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 2007 NFL draft. He helped the 49ers reach Super Bowl XLVII and made seven Pro Bowls in eight NFL seasons.

Willis was born in Tennessee but became a Mississippi sports legend, while Buckley took the opposite track.

Buckley led Pascagoula High School to the 1987 Class 5A championship, then went out of state and starred at Florida State from 1989-91.

A unanimous First Team All-American in 1991, Buckley took home the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting after leading the nation with 12 interceptions. His 501 career interception return yards remain an NCAA record, and he scored seven touchdowns.

Buckley played 14 seasons in the NFL and was part of the New England Patriots’ championship team in 2001. He had 50 career interceptions in the pros.

Buckley was inducted into the Florida State Hall of Fame in 2003 and in 2011 his No. 27 jersey was retired.

In 2016, Buckley returned to his home state as an assistant coach at Mississippi State. He recently finished his third season overseeing a talented group of cornerbacks that did not allow a touchdown during the regular season.

The other members of this year’s Hall of Fame Class are: Oklahoma defenive back Rickey Dixon (1984-87); John Carroll linebacker London Fletcher (1995-97); Texas A&M defensive lineman Jacob Grey (1977-79); Notre Dame wide receiver and kick returner Raghib Ismail (1988-90); Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (2005-07); Arizona State quarterback Jake Plummer (1993-96); Wisconsin offensive lineman Joe Thomas (2003-06); Michigan State running back Lorenzo White (1984-87); Texas quarterback Vince Young (2003-05); and coaches Dennis Erickson and Joe Taylor.