EUGENE - Oregon defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said Friday that he has never been the one to find himself at the top of any awards lists.
Consequently, it took him by surprise when the Pac-12 coaches awarded him with conference defensive player of the year honor.
"There's a lot of good defensive players in the Pac-12, and just that fact that the coaches settled on me being the defensive player of the year, it's an honor," he said.
Buckner certainly proved deserving. The 6-foot-7, 290-pounder had 76 tackles during the regular season, and led UO (9-3) with 16 tackles for loss and 9 1/2 sacks. His sack total ranks second in the Pac-12. His tackles for loss rank third. He became only the second Oregon player to receive the award, joining defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (2005).
The honor caps off a great career at Oregon that has one game remaining, Jan. 2 against No. 11 TCU in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
Buckner's final game at Autzen saw the No. 15 Ducks defeat Oregon State in the 119th Civil War. Buckner celebrated in style with numerous family members taking the field for senior day, a memory he said won't soon fade.
"When coach said there was no limit on the family, I was excited," Buckner said.
Helfrich might not have know what he had gotten himself into with Buckner, whose family members seemed to endlessly stream onto the field.
"It was awesome," he said. "It was definitely how I wanted to go out at Autzen. I had a pretty good game and I had a bunch of my family there, and it wasn't even half of my family, too."
Buckner's teammates relish in his accolades.
"I'm extremely proud of my friend," Oregon senior linebacker Tyson Coleman said. "It's a big accomplishments. He earned it and deserved it. Just proud to be able to say I played with that dude."
"It was well deserved," said sophomore cornerback Arrion Springs before jokingly shifting some of the credit to the defensive backs. "I feel like we helped him out just a little bit. A few coverage sacks, now and then. He's a great player but we helped him out just a little bit. He helps us, too."
Both teammates said Buckner is a very impressive teammate.
"I haven't seen anyone that is that big that can move that smoothly," Coleman said. "There's guys who are fast but he's smooth when he does it. I think that's the biggest thing, he's a fluid athlete at that size."
Said Springs: "He plays his heart out. He cusses everybody out when we need it. He's just a great leader."
Buckner's collegiate career will end in San Antonio before taking his dominant talents to the NFL as a likely first-round pick.
"It is my last game in an Oregon jersey," he said. "I try not to think about it a lot...I'm just happy to have another opportunity to be out there with my brothers."