NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Don't mistake my kindness for weakness.
As Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner meets with teams leading up to this month's NFL Draft, that's his message to the NFL's decision-makers. Buckner met with the Titans at Saint Thomas Sports Park on Tuesday.
"I feel like a lot of people feel like I am a good, nice guy, off the field, and when they meet me I am a nice guy,'' Buckner said. "But some of the questions I got at the combine, it was, 'You are a nice guy off the field, but on the field what kind of guy are you?' I feel like on the field I am a completely different person.
"I can be nice off the field, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I feel when it comes to the game, I am a different person. I have some of that dog in me."
Buckner's game tape says plenty.
The 6-foot-7, 300-pounder racked up 10.5 sacks in 2015 en route to being named the Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year. He won the prestigious Morris Trophy, voted on by opposing Pac-12 linemen who lined up across from him. It's why Buckner is in the conversation for one of the top picks in the NFL draft, and it's why he was in the building on Tuesday meeting with Titans general manager Jon Robinson, coach Mike Mularkey and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, among others.
A day earlier, the Titans hosted former Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
Oregon DE DeForest Buckner makes a pre-draft visit with the Titans at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)
Buckner believes he should be considered among the draft's elite prospects. The Titans currently hold the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft.
"I definitely feel like I am one of the top players in the draft,'' Buckner said. "I am not trying to be cocky or anything, but I am confident in myself and the type of player I am. I just like to defy the odds, I guess.
"Put on the tape and you can see in my tape what kind of player I am. I want teams to know if they choose to draft me, they won't be upset with the pick. Because off the field they don't have to worry about me, and on the field I will get it done. I will do whatever it takes to get it done. I will be an accountable pro who makes an impact."
Buckner, who was raised in Waianee, Hawaii, pointed to his former teammate at Oregon – quarterback Marcus Mariota -- as a perfect example of a player who can be polite, and still get it done.
In high school, Buckner competed against Mariota. At Oregon, Mariota won a Heisman Trophy. Mariota is coming off a very successful rookie season with the Titans after being selected second overall in last year's draft.
Buckner, who has also visited three other NFL teams in the pre-draft process, just saw Mariota last Saturday while working out in Eugene, Oregon. The two later had breakfast. Mariota wished him luck.
"Marcus, he is "that guy" back at Oregon,'' Buckner said with a smile. "Everybody knows Marcus. Like that one kid said, "Jesus, girls and Marcus Mariota." That's what it is. It's like that back home in Hawaii, too. Everybody loves Marcus. … You know what kind of person he is, and you can only wish good for that guy.
"Marcus is a great guy. But he is also a competitor who takes care of business. If you have played with Marcus you know what kind of competitor he is. He doesn't like to lose."
Just weeks before the NFL Draft, Buckner has several things running through his head.
He wants to be successful for himself, and his family. Buckner grew up fast after his father was involved in a serious motorcycle accident when DeForest was in the eighth grade. George Buckner remains in a wheelchair today after "too many surgeries to count."
Titans Online looks at Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner's college career, combine workout and Pro Day. (AP Photos)
"I want to make my family proud,'' Buckner said.
Something else Buckner has considered: He'll either be reunited with Mariota, in Tennessee, or have the opportunity to sack him again one day, as a member of another team.
While at Punahou High School, Buckner's team beat Mariota's team, Saint Louis High School, twice. The following year, Mariota got some revenge, and Buckner wasn't able to sack him.
"His junior year, my sophomore year (in high school), we beat them twice, but he wasn't starting at the time,'' Buckner recalled. "When Marcus got in the last part of the game, he actually drove the whole field on us and scored, and we were like, 'Where has this kid been?' We were wondering why he wasn't the starter. And then his senior year he started and he single-handedly tore my team up twice.
"In practices (at Oregon) I used to try and chase him down, and it was tough. He's fast. But there were times I let off; I could've gotten him. I would take pleasure in (sacking him in the NFL), probably to get back at him for high school days."