EL PASO, Texas — Donald Buckram played his career breakout season in 2009 knowing that he needed exactly that to let the NFL scouts know that he has what it takes to shine on Sundays in the big league.
The senior running back from the University of Texas at El Paso compiled 1,594 yards and 18 touchdowns in his junior season with the Miners. Not only did he run the ball, Buckram, broke a UTEP record that stood since 1948, held by former Texas Western (now UTEP) running back Fred Wendt.
Buckram didn’t always aspire to play football. Growing up in Copperas Cove, Texas, he idolized another sport other than football. Young Donald wanted to become a track star.
“I watched and wanted to be like the track stars like Maurice Green and Michael Johnson growing up.”
Little by little Buckram began to enter the world of football through video gaming.
“My friends would be playing video games and be playing football on there. I began to like the video games and liked football.”
Buckram began playing football and running track in Copperas Cove High as well.
The Miners would eventually play Buckram as a freshman and he caught his one touchdown that season from former UTEP QB Jordan Palmer in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 against the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Buckram would be redshirted the next year as he tried to break into the depth chart.
“I needed to earn a trust factor so that they would give me the ball.” said Buckram.
Practically nothing would be heard of him until his huge game against the nationally ranked # 12 University of Houston Cougars on October 3rd when he ran for 262 yards and four touchdowns upsetting the Cougars and giving UTEP its first win over a ranked opponent in 13 years.
“It felt like another day when someone told me ‘you’re gonna hit 200 yards’ and I just kept on running,” Buckram said.
The Miners would finish the season a disappointing 4-8 and eventually frustrated a city as well. Buckram wants to change that this upcoming season and have the team ready for his senior year.
“We have to make a statement that first game (Arkansas Pine Bluff), we need to play for us and El Paso,” said Buckram.
Buckram says the team has been working hard over the summer and he is trying to reach a weight of 205 before the summer camps start.
The Miner’s main goal this season to turn the corner and go to a bowl game, something that hasn’t happened since 2004.
“ We need to fire on all cylinders and you need a balanced team to win games. We just need to be more united as a team. Last year’s collapses were flukes and they aren’t going to happen again,” Buckram said.