HOUSTON -- I knew I was going to like him, because, well, we reporters are predisposed to the talkers. Like moths to light, we can't ever seem to get enough of the guys who fill up our notebooks, pepper our copy with colorful quotes and make us realize just how much we're going to miss Shannon Sharpe one of these days.
But in all honesty, Brentson Buckner went above and beyond this Super Bowl week. I mean, I had no idea the Carolina defensive tackle was this kind of talent. Warren Sapp? That's bluster and blather. Joe Horn? Too over the top. And for my taste, Peyton Manning's accommodating ways feel a bit too Madison Avenue, a bit prepackaged.
But Buckner, this guy's the real deal. Funny, insightful, and at times biting. Forget about getting a word in edge-wise. You try to start with a syllable and work your way up. If he was paid by the word, the Panthers would be millions over the salary cap.
Against the backdrop of maybe the most boring Super Bowl buildup in history, Buckner has been a virtual one-man show, making every day seem like Super Bowl Media Day. If the guy plays as well Sunday as he talked this week, the heavily favored New England Patriots might be in trouble.
Along about now I could weave together a narrative for you of Buckner's 10-year NFL career, his pivotal role on the Panthers' star-studded defensive line and what he thinks of his team being the Super Bowl underdogs.
Blah, blah, blah.
I promise you it's far more entertaining for everyone involved -- especially by Friday of Super Bowl week -- to just ask him a question and let him go to work, like an artist filling a verbal canvas.
Buckner on growing up in Columbus, Ga., with seven sisters and no brothers:
"Oh, it was crazy. I didn't really get much bathroom time until I was in college. You learned to go find a big tree in the neighborhood. You learned how to wash your face and brush your teeth in the kitchen sink. I was third from the youngest, but then the other two younger sisters jumped ahead of me, too, because they were able to go into the bathroom with their sisters. I really couldn't do that.''
Buckner on rumors that he was going to sign with New England as a free agent in 2001:
"I never talked to the Patriots. I think it was just a rumor. You think they're going to allow another Buckner to play for a New England team, a team up in Massachusetts? That is not going down. You know what would happen for the fans who actually believe there's a Buckner curse? You know how many season tickets would have been turned back in?''
Buckner on whether his voice has grown hoarse from talking during Super Bowl week:
"I could talk for days. They don't have enough media days to keep me from talking.''
Buckner on playing in the Super Bowl and thereby missing those great Super Bowl TV commercials:
"I have TIVO. I don't want to miss the commercials. That's the best part of the Super Bowl -- the commercials. The one I don't want to miss is the Leon commercial. I know they'll have something special. I like the commercial where Leon, and there's some guys in the league probably like that -- me, me, me -- where some guy says, 'There ain't no I in team,' and [Leon] looks up and says, 'Hell, there ain't no WE, either.' ''
Buckner on being waived by Kansas City in training camp in 1997, four months after being traded there from Pittsburgh:
"Nothing personal about Kansas City, but I didn't like it. I didn't want to be there. Because me and [Steelers head coach Bill] Cowher were not best of friends, and for him to trade me to Kansas City to a guy he was best friends with [Chiefs head coach Marty Schottenheimer], that was like a slap in my face. I never cared for Marty. I never had nothing against him, but just by him being friends with Cowher, I felt that they were playing with my livelihood and my career. By the grace of God I was able to leave.''
Buckner on whether Cowher intentionally traded him to Schottenheimer, knowing the Chiefs coach wouldn't like him either:
"Yeah, it was done intentionally. You telling me you take your starting defensive lineman and trade him to K.C. for a seventh-round pick? And if me and you don't get along, and this guy is who you pattern yourself after, do you think I'm going to get along with him?
"The first time Marty talked to me, it was, 'We're going to start over from scratch, woo, woo, woo.' But all along during training camp, different things started coming up, and it was like if I messed up on a play, it was, 'Well, Bill told me this was going to happen.' And I'm like, 'I thought we were starting over from scratch?' But I just took it in stride. It didn't kill me. It made me stronger.''
Buckner on seeing his reputation improve in Carolina after being classified a problem player earlier in his career in Pittsburgh:
"When I got to Carolina they didn't worry about what everybody said, and now I'm reaping the rewards. You can't find a person in the Carolina organization, from the grounds crew, to the janitors, to the cooks that can say a bad word about Brentson Buckner.''
Buckner on whether being asked questions at the Super Bowl gets old:
"It does, but it's part of the Super Bowl. You have to relish in the moment.'' (We think he meant revel, or relish, the moment).
Buckner on what the Panthers needed to get to a Super Bowl level:
"Adding a running back like Stephen Davis and just playing together a little bit more. Adding Stephen Davis was like the last tire that needed to be rotated on the car. Everything has been riding smoothly since then.''
Buckner on losing Super Bowl XXX with Pittsburgh:
"When you lose a Super Bowl, the world forgets about you. For 60 minutes they watch you play, but really when you lose, it's like you never were there because the media runs to the winner. They rope off the field. It's just a feeling that you're just alone. You went from 250 million people watching you to no one caring about who you were.''
Buckner on how he stressed the importance of winning the Super Bowl to his Carolina teammates:
"We're here to try to win the game. We're not here to go the parties. We're not here to hang out at the mall. We're not here to take pictures and go and visit the space shuttle. We're not here to do any of that. We're here to win a game. When you win, you could party all you want to. But when you lose, you sit back and you start to regret some of the things that you did.''
Buckner on teammate Rod Smart, a.k.a., "He Hate Me'':
"Oh, man, he's the loudest man on the football field. He comes in the locker room, he's yelling, he's making noise. Next thing you know, he's running around with his jockstrap on, just piling on, jumping on people, bumping into people, dancing.
"And don't let it be game day when he pulls on his leopard skin stacks and he has his hair blown out. It's almost like you're watching a 1970s Raiders game when he comes in the locker room.''
Buckner on if the Panthers would be bigger than pro wrestler Ric Flair in Carolina with a win Sunday:
"That's hard. Ric wore a championship belt 13 times. We might get to hang out with him a little bit. We won't become as big, but we will be on the 'A' list when it comes to parties. I love Ric Flair. Ric Flair turned me into a wrestling fan a long time ago.''
Buckner on being bigger than other kids growing up:
"I was huge. I didn't play football until seventh grade. I was too big to play Pop Warner. My football career didn't start until I got to middle school. The first time I went to play, I was too heavy, and I cried because all of my friends were playing. I was 175 pounds in sixth grade. ... But big is real good right now. The bigger the better.''
At this year's Super Bowl, when it comes to talking a good game, nobody has come up bigger or better than Buckner.