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Ex-UNM football player dies in bus crash

Former UNM football player Jerry Buckner (51) poses with teammates Sam Scarber (23), Rodney Wallace (70) and an unidentified Lobo cheerleader on a circa 1970 magazine cover. Buckner, 71, died on Tuesday in a car crash in Texas.
Courtesy of UNM Athletics

Jerry Buckner, a former University of New Mexico defensive end and a bus driver for UNM athletic teams, was killed in a bus crash in Vega, Texas Tuesday morning. He was 71.

According to a Texas Department of Public Safety report, Buckner was driving a 2019 MCI Charter Bus owned by Herrera Coaches, Inc., with 25 passengers on board. He was the one person who died and 18 were injured.

The crash remains under investigation. Buckner drove into a lane closed for construction after traveling in a one-lane construction zone, according to the report and ABC7 News in Texas. The bus ran over multiple traffic direction cones and struck multiple overpass support beams that were being stored on the outside lane and shoulder of the roadway.

Buckner, who was en route to Albuquerque, was pronounced dead on the scene.

Buckner, who graduated from Lovington High School, played for the Lobos in 1967-1970.

Jerry Buckner

He passed up a chance to play at Texas Tech and Texas Western (now UTEP) to go to UNM, according to Journal archives.

Buckner and his wife were season-ticket holders for football, and men’s and women’s basketball games at UNM.

Several people expressed their sorrow of Buckner’s death and sent condolences to his family and those who know him.

UNM defensive coordinator Rocky Long, a former Lobo quarterback who played three years with Buckner, said he was always happy to see Buckner when he drove the Lobos to games, on the road and at home. Buckner also drove the team bus for San Diego State when Long coached the Aztecs at the new Mexico Bowl last December in Albuquerque.

San Diego State defeated Central Michigan 48-11 on Dec. 21.

“When I found out I was very, very sad,” Long said about hearing the tragic news of Buckner’s death. “I lost a teammate, a friend, more of a friend than a teammate since it’s been a long time when we played. It was a sad deal. When I heard he was driving a bus, that makes sense, because even after we got done playing with each other and when I became a coach here, he was our bus driver. He did that all the time for us, and he would have done it for any New Mexico team because he was a Lobo at heart.”

Long said his friend, “Buck,” was a special man.

The UNM Alumni Letterman Twitter handle tweeted a statement on Wednesday:

“The passing of Jerry Buckner brings us great sorrow. For many of you, you know him best as the bus driver who bled Cherry & Silver and supported you and all of our UNM athletes every step of the way.

“Jerry had a heart of gold and brought many fond memories to those of us in UNM Athletics. We are proud and lucky to have had him as one of our own. Our hearts and thoughts go out to his many teammates, friends, fellow Lobos and his family. #Lobo4Life”

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