OCTOBER 30, 1972
They look alike, talk alike, share similar tastes in women—one married the cousin of the other's wife—and Dave and Don Buckey have always had that ESP thing going, too. The other Kenmore ( Ohio) High football players didn't believe it until that day in 1971 when they blindfolded Dave, the quarterback, and he hit his identical twin, Don, the wide receiver, right on the numbers.
At the Buckeys' first peewee football practice, in Akron, the coach told his players to pick a position. Don got in the quarterbacks line, looked up, saw his brother near the front and joined the receivers. "Who knows?" Dave says, 35 years later. "He could have been just as good as me." That's to say, just as good as North Carolina State's alltime leader in passing efficiency and completion percentage. Dave's favorite target was Don, an All-America, and the Buckeys-led Wolfpack of 1974 is the last North Carolina State team to have cracked the Top 10.
After both were drafted in the 12th round by the New York Jets in 1976, they lived together at training camp. One morning after practice Don returned to a half-empty room. Dave had been cut. "It was," Don says, "one of the saddest days of my life." Dave was briefly an assistant coach at N.C. State and in '88 joined Raleigh-based L&M Transportation, for which he now oversees the loading and distribution of produce. After Don's one season as a Jets backup receiver, he and his wife, Elaine, moved to North Carolina, where he became a management trainee at Roadway Express, a national trucking company. But how long could the Buckey boys stay apart? In July, after 23 years and a variety of postings for Roadway, Don joined L&M to direct the company's new effort to serve smaller companies needing assistance with goods distribution. "It's a heck of a challenge for him," Dave says.
The twins and their wives—Dave is married to Elaine's cousin, Anna—are often seen at home games of N.C. State, which has perhaps its most exciting team since the Buckeys' days. It's apt that the star quarterback, Philip Rivers, is a freshman. In 1972, when first-year students became eligible to play varsity football, Dave was a freshman, and in his first collegiate start, he led the Wolfpack over West Virginia in the Peach Bowl. "Football was good to us," Dave says, but he still remembers looking at the sky the morning he had been cut by the Jets. "It was beautiful, and I knew that life goes on."
Life has gone on, and with Don back at his side, Dave will tell you blindfolded that the sky has never looked better.