One year after Marcus Mariota was the highest Hawaii-born player taken in the NFL Draft at number two overall, his former teammate at Oregon DeForest Buckner wasn’t far behind. The Punahou graduate was selected seventh overall by the San Francisco 49ers, rejoining his former college head coach Chip Kelly.
"He was like DeFo, this is coach Kelly, you ready to be reunited?," Buckner said of the phone call right before the 49ers picked him. "When he said that to me, everything kind of just stopped. I almost busted out in tears to be honest. It means a lot."
Many mock drafts had Buckner going third overall to the San Diego Chargers, his favorite childhood team.
"We were praying for a West Coast team," Buckner said of he and his family. "When San Diego picked Joey Bosa, we were like, 'Okay, San Francisco.' I was over here sweating, I'm not gonna lie. And when they called my name, words can't describe it."
Buckner will also join forces with former defensive line mate at Oregon Arik Armstead, who was selected 17th overall by the 49ers last year.
"We were talking about what if we were to be reunited somehow," Buckner said. "For that to come true, it's crazy. I know he's going to be able to help me transition into the league and make everything easier, and we're excited for this year to come."
In his senior season for the Ducks, Buckner registered 83 tackles (17 for a loss) and 10.5 sacks. He was named the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year and named a first-team All-American by USA Today.
The Waianae native has drawn comparisons to Calais Campbell, the All-Pro defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals, for their similar body types and tremendous upside coming out of college.
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