Terrell Buckley prepared Packers' Jaire Alexander to not be another T-Buck

Prospect Profile: Jaire Alexander (0:33)

Mel Kiper Jr. says Louisville CB Jaire Alexander has "Deion Sanders-like natural ability" and has "a chance to be an elite cover corner." (0:33)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- This much quickly becomes apparent during a conversation with Terrell Buckley: He doesn't believe his NFL career was anywhere near as rotten as you, the longtime Green Bay Packers fan, think.

He has the 50 career interceptions and 209 games over 14 seasons to prove it.

No, it didn't work out well with the team that picked him fifth overall in the 1992 draft. Nor did it last long. Three years later, he was down the road, and his selection led to a change in how the Packers evaluated cornerbacks, specifically short cornerbacks. Then-general manager Ron Wolf, who made Buckley his first-ever first-round pick with the Packers, established a Mendoza Line on height for the position. Never again would he pick a cornerback as short as the 5-foot-10 Buckley.

So it's with a large degree of coincidence that Buckley had a hand in the Packers' first-round pick 26 years after he became one of Wolf's biggest regrets.

For it was with Buckley's help that cornerback Jaire Alexander -- all 5-foot-10¼ of him -- put himself in position for the Packers to pick him at No. 18 overall in last month's draft. Buckley served as Alexander's position coach at the University of Louisville for two seasons.

The hope, from the Packers' standpoint, is that Buckley taught Alexander how not to be the next Buckley.

"All I tried to do is prepare him for that, because at the end of the day, this is what should matter: Why did you start to play the game?" Buckley said during a phone interview this week. "Because you love to compete and you've learned and figure out how to make plays no matter if the guy was smaller than you or bigger."

First-year Packers GM Brian Gutekunst staked his first draft to an undersized cornerback just as Wolf, one of his mentors, did in his first draft. On draft day, Gutekunst even mentioned the height requirement, saying Alexander measured "kind of right on the Mendoza Line."

It's something Alexander fought from the start of his college career. He first committed to South Carolina, but Buckley continued to actively recruit him despite reservations among his fellow Louisville coaches.

"Again we're back to this size thing that I've had to address," said Buckley, now the cornerbacks coach at Mississippi State. "We were back and forth on another guy who was bigger. Jaire was committed to South Carolina and this other player we were looking at and we were just going back and forth. Jaire comes on an official visit; me and his dad hit it off. I loved the energy, and he was the type of player I loved -- punt returner, receiver, whatever it took -- and we hit it off. That's why you need to meet people."

Sure, Buckley saw plenty of himself in Alexander, and not just because of his stature. Buckley, too, was a punt returner, who might be best remembered for a 58-yard return for a touchdown in his Packers debut.

"One of the first things that popped up was his punt-return ability," Buckley said. "Starting as a punt returner in the season opener against Auburn his freshman year was a big deal for him, and I was very excited for him."

There was also the confidence Alexander displayed -- similar to what a young, outspoken Buckley showed when he entered the NFL.

"As far as swagger goes, I tell T-Buck all the time, 'I got my swag from T-Buck,'" Alexander said. "So he knows that. He played with some swagger too, now, if you watched him."

Buckley also made his share of plays. Just ask him.

When asked whether NFL scouts and coaches questioned him about Alexander's height leading up to the draft, Buckley offered a lengthy response.

"I'm going to use myself as an example," Buckley began. "If you go back and look at tape, Herman Moore had one good game against me out of eight. And that one game turned into, ‘Oh my God, Herman Moore is so much bigger.' And you're like, ‘Bro, what about the other seven games and the picks?' I tried to prepare Jaire for that. I explained that I set goals, and people will run with stuff. But the bottom line, obviously I got over all that and just played ball. And that's the same thing that I tell the guys I coach. And Jaire is going to do that with the excitement he's going to bring.

"It's the same thing with Jaire: The numbers don't lie. You don't play 14 years and don't miss a game if you're out there getting killed all the time. And I'm going against Cris Carter, Herman Moore, and it's like, 'Bro, those guys are going to make plays, too, now.' So with Jaire, to me mentally, that's what you give him. Don't worry about that. You keep playing. You keep plugging away. Understand the game."