By Jason Krump
What does Deone Bucannon enjoy about tackling?
“I like being the one that hits instead of getting hit," he explains.
"It's a challenge," he says of going up against an opponent one-on-one. "Who's going to win?"
"I don't want to be on the losing side."
Rarely has that happened during Bucannon’s career at Washington State.
No one in the Pac-12 Conference has been better at tackling. He enters Saturday’s New Mexico Bowl with a conference-leading 109 tackles, and his 74 solo tackles are 10th-most in the country. He owns the fourth-most tackles in WSU history (379).
As much as Bucannon loves to hit a ball carrier, he loves to play for his teammates, more.
"I love playing defense for these guys," he says. "You genuinely care about and genuinely want to do everything you possibly can to be the best player you can when you step on that field with them."
When Bucannon learned of the Cougars’ first bowl bid in a decade his first thoughts were for his teammates.
“I was really happy for everyone on the team,” he says. “Everyone on this team deserves it.
"We got a lot of people on this team who has been through some bad times and to see that all of the work is paying off is a blessing and a humbling thing."
And while his current teammates were foremost in his thoughts, the players who wore the Cougar uniform before him were not far behind.
“We owe it to the people who were before us,” he adds. “All of those great players who set the stage for us, we're really thankful and we wouldn't be in this position without them.”
When Saturday's New Mexico Bowl ends, Bucannon will join the Cougar football alumni club.
His career will be remembered as one of the most renowned in program history.
When he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors earlier this month, he became the first Cougar to earn first team accolades since wideout Brandon Gibson in 2007 and the first defensive back since safety Eric Frampton in 2006.
The Pac-12 accolade is the second career all-conference honor for Bucannon after being named to the second team last season, he was also named a Freshman All-American in 2010.
All America honors have come rolling in. He was named a Second-Team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the All-America First Team by Athlon Sports, and most recently, CBSSports.com All-America Third Team, SI.com's All-America Team Honorable Mention and a First Team selection to the AP All-America Team.
While the honors have been bestowed to Bucannon this season, he is quick to say how much of an honor it's been to play football for the Cougars.
“It’s really hard to explain how much it means to me,” says Bucannon, who is majoring in criminal justice. “It’s a true honor and I appreciate all the things people have done to provide me with the scholarship. Without this, I wouldn’t be at the place I am now. It has definitely made a huge impact on my life.”
Bucannon’s family will be in New Mexico to watch him play his final WSU game Saturday.
Both his immediate family and Cougar family.
And whatever the future holds for Bucannon, he knows one thing will always remain constant. Being a part of the family.
"WSU and the people here taught me how to overcome adversity, stay within yourself and to remember who you're playing for," he says. "No matter what, the people here and around you have your back.
"It's a family environment. It's a brotherhood. That's what WSU instilled in me. No matter how far you go, no matter where you're at, no matter how many years down the line, these are your brothers. This will always be your family. It's a bond that you have with each other. It's unexplainable."