But at the time
Buckner was simply distraught. That night he left his room in The Alamo and
went outside, thinking he might keep right on going. A mattress was airing out
on a fence, and Buckner lit into it, pummeling it, harder, harder, harder, all
his anger and frustrations pouring out. A man has to wonder if Bull Cyclone
might not have heard all the commotion and come to his window and watched,
The next day,
Buckner was still second string. Only, as soon as the other quarterback made an
error, Bull Cyclone was all over him—"Get out of my —huddle! Get out
my—life!"—and Buckner was back in the saddle. They were getting ready for
Jones and then the Junior Rose Bowl. Coach Sullivan didn't have much more to
tell Buckner, except throw the ball and throw it away if pressured.
So it was 7-0
Scooba. Buckner was back to pass again, and the Jones defenders rushed in.
Instead of lobbing the ball far away, he thought he saw a way to salvage the
play and scrambled. He ducked this way and that, but two Jones linemen were
still closing in on him. "Throw it away!" Bull Cyclone hollered.
"Throw it away! Get rid of it!"
trapped now; it was too late. He was hit low, and as he went down, another
defender caught him with his fist, solid, square on the cheek. As he buckled,
Buckner could feel his whole face cave in as if it were papier-mâché. The man
who took the game films for Bull Cyclone told him he'd caught it all. But the
films had to be developed in Jackson, which is Jones territory. When they came
back that one play had been spliced out. Bull Cyclone didn't care. He'd seen it
all himself. He vowed never to play Jones again, and he never did.
to his feet and staggered to the sideline. He didn't lose consciousness, but he
knew his jaw was broken the instant the blow landed. Now he was bleeding so
much he had difficulty talking. His face was all splintered. He went over to
Bull Cyclone, and he mumbled, "Corch, I believe my jaw is broken."
Bull Cyclone just
stared at Buckner, dead on, for the longest kind of time. Finally, he balled
his fists and screamed, "You damn idiot! I told you not to run
that—football!" Then he turned away from Buckner and sent in the No. 2
quarterback. They would retire Baby Doll's number, but not Buckner's. Jones won
youngest daughter, Gael, Little Cyclone, was 12 then. She used to race her
friends onto the field after games, all of them trying to see who could get to
her daddy first. This time Gael won, but as soon as she reached him, she froze.
"Right away, I knew something terrible had happened," she says.
"This time I could tell he was sad, not angry."
Scooba was in
shock and lost the next week, too, finishing 9-2. Buckner never again wore his
star jersey. Somebody else got invited to the Junior Rose Bowl. Somebody else
was national champion. Scooba fell in the polls. It didn't even win the
conference. Bull Cyclone never won it, and he wouldn't have another terrific
shot for five more years, with the royal flush team of '69.
A few days after
the Jones game, Sullivan went to the hospital in Meridian to visit Buckner. He
was carrying flowers. A lot of times he would yank up some black-eyed Susans
and have the managers take them over to Mrs. Sullivan, but now he was carrying
a real bouquet. Buckner has never forgotten any of it. Bull Cyclone came in,
laid down the flowers and just stood there at the end of the bed. Buckner was
waiting to say something after Bull Cyclone spoke, but Bull Cyclone never said
a word. For 10 minutes he just stood there, until, at last, bereft of voice and
dreams, he turned and walked away, going back to Scooba.
Finally, in 1966,
the Sullivans got their own house, a neat and sturdy red brick just beyond the
end zone. President Harbour thought that respectable faculty housing was good
for the campus. But that was the coach's only perquisite, and for his $5,600
salary, Bull Cyclone wasn't only football coach and athletic director but dean
of men as well. A friend gave him a partnership in a little local franchise
known as Chicken Chef, even though Bull Cyclone never had the cash to invest in
the deal. "If Bull lived to be 200 years old, he'd never have had any
money," says his old buddy Fleming. Friends say letters would come in from
his former players, down on their luck, between jobs, and old coach Sullivan
would pull out his last five-dollar bill and send it on.