Connecting the dots from offensive lineman Jack Buford to University of New Mexico wide receiver Cjay Boone is natural in regard to Buford recently landing as a transfer to play for the Lobos.
Buford and Boone grew up in St. Louis and played at the University of Missouri. But what tipped the scale to UNM for Buford’s decision was the Lobos’ new quarterback, Terry Wilson, who recently transferred in from Kentucky.
“I was talking to Cjay, but as soon as they told me about Terry I was like OK. I hit Terry up,” said Buford, a highly recruited offensive lineman out of Lutheran High School in 2019. “Me and Terry have been talking for about a month. We were supposed to link up in (California) but I left a day early and missed him. Me and Terry have been chopping it up almost all the time. That’s my guy. That’s my quarterback.”
Wilson was 17-8 over a little more than two active seasons at Kentucky, where in 2018 he led the Wildcats to their first 10-win season since 1977.
“Our players are our best recruiters,” UNM coach Danny Gonzales said. “That speaks volumes when a kid like Terry can connect with Jack. Terry has never even been on our campus, but we’ve been able to spend enough time virtually with him and he understands the culture we’re trying to build and he understands what we’re doing on a daily basis from being in meetings.”
Buford, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound, agile 20-year-old, will have four years of eligibility upon arriving at UNM. He had over 30 offers and was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN.com and 247Sports.com. Those sites also ranked him as the No. 17 offensive guard in the nation. He had opted out of last season at Mizzou, only to change his mind and played sparingly in 2020 as a redshirt freshman. He also excelled as a basketball player at Lutheran and somewhat jokingly said he will try out for the UNM men’s basketball team.
He said he is excited to join the Lobos and recently discovered that he has family – cousins, he said – in Albuquerque.
“If you look over the star rankings, he would be the highest-rated player to ever come to the University of New Mexico,” Gonzales said. “What does that mean? I don’t know. To me it doesn’t really mean a whole lot, but it means a lot to a lot of people. … Now, if he gets over here and he never performs to that potential, then it didn’t mean anything. But we’re excited about him. Potentially he has a lot of growth, just being a football player. We’re really excited to have him.”
As a basketball player, Buford said he was sometimes referred to as “Baby Barkley,” and had a strong knack for scoring. He averaged over 40 points per game in high school.
“I’m really a natural-born basketball player, that’s really my first love,” Buford said. “In football, I’m violent off the ball. I don’t like to lose. I’m aggressive. When it comes to my o-line, no d-lineman can ever disrespect us. That’s the approach I take. You’re getting a nasty o-lineman, a leader, somebody who is ready to get it and go. It’s not really too much talking. It’s just, let’s go.”
Basketball is how Buford and Boone initially connected. They played on opposite teams during their AAU days.
When they both got to Mizzou for football they wanted to bring more in-state recruits to the Tigers’ program. But plans change, and coaches change.
Boone, a speedy playmaker, senses something special brewing for the UNM football program, which went 2-5 in 2020 when the Lobos relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, to compete in the season because of the COVID-19 restrictions in Albuquerque. Boone wanted to help out UNM when he told Buford about the Lobos and he was also looking out for his old basketball buddy to pick New Mexico over other programs.
Boone can’t help but continue to sell UNM when he talks about his short time with the Lobos and their potential for 2020.
“We’re about to win,” Boone said. “We’re building something out here. If you want to join, get in where you fit in. If you don’t, you’re going to be on the back end of it. It’s going to look bad for whoever is on the back end.”
In addition to Wilson, Buford and Boone, the Lobos also landed linebacker Jeffrey Blake, a 6-4, 218-pound redshirt sophomore transfer from San Diego State. He’s familiar with defensive coordinator Rocky Long’s defense.
Gonzales said UNM has one more scholarship available for preferably another transfer on defense, either a lineman or a safety “that can be a game-changer.”
Expect the recent UNM transfers to be involved in the recruiting process.