Friendship evolves from rivalry

Updated: June 30, 2014, 3:42 PM ET
By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com

Terrell Buckley and Lamar Thomas were rivals before they were friends. Two of the headliners during the heyday of the High Noon showdowns between Florida State and Miami in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Buckley was the shutdown cornerback for the Seminoles while Thomas was one of the Miami receivers in a long line of greats.

They also happened to be All-American trash-talkers.

In between all that smack talk, a friendship blossomed. The two eventually became teammates with the Miami Dolphins, then pursued coaching careers. Now they are playing for the same team once again, as assistants at Louisville under Bobby Petrino.

Here, in their own words, they tell how exactly a Nole and a Cane became best friends. And yes, a little trash talk was involved.

TB: I met him in 1989 at Tallahassee, Doak Campbell, probably the loudest game I've ever been a part of. And I saw this 145-pound guy with big thick pads on him with Michael Irvin lines through his head. He was a Michael Irvin wannabe and I told him he wasn't even close to Mike, so that's how it started. And I had a PBU [pass breakup] against him.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Buckley
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsFormer Jim Thorpe Award winner Terrell Buckley's No. 27 is retired at Florida State.

LT: I remember some of that. It was the loudest game I'd been a part of. Gino Torretta's first start in that year we won the national championship.

TB: They lost to us. We should have been playing.

LT: But I did meet him that night. I was pretty intrigued by the fact that they had a midget playing out there. The only time we came in contact we had a pass breakup in the end zone that put us first-and-goal at the 1[-yard line] and the next play we fumbled. The next year was when we actually met and had conversations. I was a sophomore starting in between two seniors. He came in as a freshman the year before and was really good. His name was already out there, and I was just a guy. 

Like I tell my guys, you get an opportunity in life to make a name for yourself, you've got to seize it. I had a fade thrown on him and I scored a touchdown against Florida State, which at that time, everybody's watching that game, so you became a household name. It was interesting because I wasn't a talker at that point. He did most of the talking that day. He was like, "Man, I shouldn't be covering you; I should be covering Randal Hill. Who are you? You're not good. Wesley Carroll's better than you," and on and on and on. Then after I beat him for that TD, oh yeah, I said, "Now you know my name!" We stayed in contact after that. It was a mutual respect. To score a touchdown in a game like that against somebody who was supposed to be really, really good -- that was the start of my career.

TB: I was an All-American. Ain't no "supposedly."

LT: I didn't know you were that good.

TB: I don't really remember that play, but I had a high ankle sprain and probably shouldn't have been playing that game, but it was the Miami game. I couldn't slide and jam the way I wanted to, and you have Mr. Thomas over there -- by then he had gained 10 pounds so he was about 160 then. I was pretty tough. I was playing boundary corner then.

LT: He was tough, but our QB, Craig Erickson, said, "Hey, if that little guy comes up, bump and run. I'm going to throw it up to you. I'm not even going to check, I'm just going to throw it." So I was pretty amazed when I saw little baby boy Buckley try to press me and I scored the touchdown.

TB: But I say this. If I wouldn't have been hurt, and I know it's a big if, they wouldn't have thrown that fade.

LT: But I say this. Thank you, Mr. Buckley, for lining up in front of me, because that put me on the map.

TB: That was his sophomore year.

And the following year ...

TB: I was healthy. That's all you need to know.

LT: We became friends. We stayed in contact and actually that year, his last year in school, my junior year, we said we're going to outsmart the media. We're going to publicize ourselves; we're going to come up with a game plan because all press is good press. We knew what to say when it came down to that game. The only thing I didn't count on was their defensive coordinator was very smart and he basically took me out the game by putting Mr. Buckley in front of me. The showdown was a no down. I think I caught one pass that game, but we did end up winning.

TB: And I don't even remember him catching one.

LT: Obviously I did because I had a streak of 27 games with a reception.

TB: He might have caught one, but it wasn't on me.

LT: It was on you.

TB: I have to go back and look at that. But we did, coach Mickey Andrews, who's the greatest assistant coach ever, we had a game plan on first and second down to do certain things and then on third down ... third down's the money down and [Thomas] was a money player, so Coach said, "You're the money player over here, so it's money against money."

LT: But we decided we weren't going to take a chance and throw it at Mr. Buckley because he's a game-changer and you've got to be smart. You've gotta put your egos aside and say, "If a guy's really good you're not going to challenge him." That's why we won the game. We stayed away from him.

TB: That ain't why they won the game.

Wide right.

TB: First one. And it's so funny. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were asking Gerry [Thomas] where he wanted the ball, and he, for some reason, says left hash. Casey [Weldon] gets it, dive, dive. From the angle -- and I'm standing probably 10 yards from Coach [Bobby] Bowden -- and from the angle that we see, he kicks it and it looks good. I don't know what the ref's thinking about. It looked good to us.

[+] EnlargeLamar Thomas
RVR Photos/USA TODAY SportsLamar Thomas was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

LT: I went running across the field. And I remember I ran all the way down, and they were still looking in amazement but I was like GIVE ME MY RING! GIVE ME MY RING!

TB: And that's a shame because that probably, for me, was the best Florida State team that I played on, talent wise. [Miami] was averaging 40-something points, we were averaging 40-something. It was one of those games of the decades. High noon showdown. Awesome. To me that's why you go play college football, to play in the big games. The only thing that rivals that is the Super Bowl.

LT: I just remember running out there. You look and you see no good and you just start sprinting. You're so excited because you know, literally at that point, that you're probably going to win a national championship because that was the game. For us at the time, those games were the games we saved it all up for.

TB: And that speeds us up to today. To turn around and be teammates in the pros with the Dolphins and beat him down after that in golf, where I practically own him on the golf course, and now to being here to be a coach.

LT: Ask him about the club championship. I think it was 1999 at Grand Oaks Golf Course. I was club champion. Beat Mr. Buckley in a 36-hole shootout. Have the trophy. That's right.

TB: That was my fault.

LT: It doesn't matter.

TB: You know how sometimes you underestimate your opponent? And I did that day.

LT: Hey, he's always put me on the map. To be honest with you, if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't be coaching. We retired [from the NFL] and in retirement, there's really no structure. We were playing golf, having a good time. He came up with an idea. He said, "What are we going to do with our lives?" We both had a lot of knowledge about football, and we talked about coaching.

We both need to go back to school. For a lot of things that have happened in my life, he has been the ignition. So we both get our degrees and we get into coaching and we stayed in touch. He was at Akron, I started in high school and the roads just came together. I get with Coach Petrino and I get the job and I asked Coach, "Hey do you have a defensive backs coach?" and he said, "No not yet." I said, "Terrell Buckley. He was a great player and he's an even better man." It's one of those things where a friendship has carried us a long way.

But we've both been able to do different things for each other. He's been there for me in a lot of great ways. I don't have too many close friends, but I can consider him one just because he was always a common force in my life, and sometimes you just need somebody to give another angle and he was always there to lend his opinion whether I wanted to hear it or not. A lot of good has happened from this guy. He's been my lucky charm ever since I beat him for that touchdown. Since he's so small, I can take one of his little shoes, and I can put it in my mirror and hang it from there. And the trash talk continues.

TB: He bumped into me the other day, acting like he wants one-on-one. I jumped in my one-on-one stance, back to the old days! But he's got a bad hip so ... I told him I'd go wide stance on him because of his bad hip, jam him and just drive him into the ground and pancake him.

LT: I'm really happy about T-Buck, too, the fact that he's grown up a little bit, got a couple inches on him. He doesn't have to buy the trucks with the step-up ladder in them. When we go to eat, I always ask the waitresses to make sure to get him a booster seat. It's good having a great friend like that. We both came to school, wanted to play big-time college football, after guys that were really, really good -- Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin. We wanted to be as successful as them. Just like they're good friends, so are we.

TB: He took it to another level with Mike, though. If Mike bought a Range Rover, he bought one. Usually he had the two lines on the side [of his hair]. Mike added one on this side, he added one. I'm like come on, man! But no it's been good, really great to see him and have fun and reminisce. It almost feels like ... you know how you grow up with somebody, and you just tell old jokes? As a player you get better as time goes on. The stories get bigger and bigger.

LT: I had to look it up, because I swore that touchdown I beat him on was a 90-yarder. It was only 10 yards. Every time I tell it, I say it was a 90-yarder down the left sideline. By the time we get old, it's going to be 100 yards. It was fourth-and-99 ...

TB: So it's good. It's been good and it's getting better. The best is yet to come. ... And he does talk about it. The catch. I remember four years ago, I'm in Tallahassee and we're at a camp. He's working a camp.

LT: He got me to work a Florida State camp.

TB: He got there, and he's demonstrating the play.

LT: To Jimbo Fisher and Lawrence Dawsey. It was funny because I'm like, "Put your hand on my back!"

TB: And you see them in the background of this photo that was taken, just crying. Lamarcus Joyner is just crying laughing. I've had trash talk and had fun with a lot of people, but this is ongoing, it evolves. You're going to see a lot here in camp. I'm going to wear my cleats one day.

LT: I can do it in the beginning of practice when I'm geeked up.

TB: Coach P has to approve that, though.

LT: It's a lot of fun.

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