Coach Mike Buckner -Top Griff- Feted At Gala Alumni Tribute
(Akron, OH)-- The championship legacy of Coach Michael Montague Buckner’s football career was on full display at a gala tribute dinner held at the Montrose Holiday Inn. Coach Mike was the first Black City High School football coach to win multiple Ohio State Football Championships.
Alumni players from all over the nation came back to express their thanks and appreciation for the lessons learned on and off the field.
“Everything Coach taught me has helped me in my life,” Clavon Bradford expressed the feeling of all Buchtel alumni.
The feeling of true friendship filled the room as alumni got reacquainted before the dinner started. Coach Buckner, escorted by his family, received a standing ovation with everyone trying to thank him for his many years of service as a coach and educator.
Praise was expressed for the life lessons learned by athletes who he mentored including Myron Lewis, Duane Bland, Steve Wade, Howard Curry, Jay Brody, and Brent Greer.
Russel Neal, a Buchtel track athlete, admitted that he was inspired by Coach Mike. Councilman Neal (W-4) presented a proclamation from Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and City Council proclaiming “May 13, 2023 as Coach Mike Buckner Day”.
“Although I played for Akron North High School, Coach Mike gave me some words of inspiration that I carry in my live,” admitted Akron School Board member Bruce Alexander. Alexander read a proclamation from the Akron Public Schol Board praising Coach Mike for his 18 years of dedicated service as a coach, educator, and administrator.
Other special guests included Akron Deputy Mayor Marco Sommerville, Rev Charles Myrick, and many more. Childhood friend Bishop Jerry Drone teased Mike that even at an early age, he was coaching Drones sandlot football team in the Ardelia Projects in East Akron. “I had the pleasure of his friendship as we worked together at Buchtel.”
Where did Coach Mike obtain the wisdom he passed on to his player that made them a football powerhouse? “My Marine Drill Sergeant father Frank Buckner and my mother Marion- a US Postal Clerk taught me the discipline, work ethic, and integrity that I passed on to my players,” Coach Mike admitted.
A 1962 Akron East High School graduate, he is a member of the Robert Street (now Arlington Street) Church of God where he met and married his late wife Patricia Evelyn Rogers and raised a family.
Legendary college Coach Ara Parseghain, a Akron native, recruited him to play defensive back at Northwestern University football where he earned Big Ten honors and a spot on the 1965 North-South Game.
Upon his return to Akron, he began working with youth serving as National Alliance of Businessmen Summer Youth coordinator, and Educational Director at the National Summer Youth Progam at the University of Akron.
He started his career at Kent State University as a graduate assistant coach. After receiving his Masters Degree, he began as` a defensive backfield coach at Canton McKinley High School. He was the youngest coach in the Toledo School at Toledo Scott High School.
At age 29, he was the youngest APS coach working at Buchtel High School. Under Buckner’s direction, he turned Buchtel into a city and state champion. He won Akron City championships, played in 5 consecutive Turkey Bowl games, and won several State football championships, His overall record was 47-26-1.
Coach Mike taught us to give it all we had- on and off the field, said Phillip Manley who went on to become the first Black quarterback at Yale College. Many football players went on to attend the University of Akron, Ashland College, Baltimore Junior College, Brown University, Bowling Green University, Central State University, University of Cincinnati, Defiance College, Eastern Michigan University, Kent State, Malome College, Miami of Ohio, Morehead State, University of Miami, Morehouse College, The Ohio State University, Toledo University, Syracuse, Walsh College, Youngstown State, the Air Force Academy, Army, US Marines, and the Navy.
Coach Buckner thanked his old friend Coach Carlson Preer for the many hours on Buchtel’s coaching staff. Coach Preer and his wife presented an oil portrait of Buckner and his late wife Patricia Evelyn Rogers during the dinner.
Other Buchtel coaches remembered for their hard work and dedication were Jim Cahoon, Jim Wagner, Ray Grimes, Jerry Suddeth-Lott, Greg Horace, Dennis DeAngelis, Mike Irby, Ronnie Greene, Stan Boykins, Dave Bittinger, John Floyd, Charlie Boyd, and Preston Andrus.
Deceased coaches honored were Jeff Buckner, Jim Sheeley, Rod Dingle, Frank Curry, and Bruce Ivory.
Among Coach Mike’s accomplishment includes membership in the Summit County Hall of Fame, Buchtel Hall of Fame, East High Hall of Fame, two-time recipient of the Felix Latoria Award, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Community Service award, ABWLC Significant Black Male award, St John CME award, Harold K, Stubbs award and many more.
Spiritual coach Rev. Ronald J. Fowler thanked Buckner for the opportunity to mentor his players. Rev Fowler, a East High star athlete, married Patricia Evelyn Rogers to Mike Buckner—“a true power couple.”
“I had the pleasure of watching him grow as a husband, coach and a man.” This is a wonderful night to remember a great mentor and lifelong friend,” said Rev Fowler.
Coach Mike was genuinely touched by the personal congratulatory videos from Coach Cannon, Coach Fitzgerald, and several family members who were unable to attend the dinner. Guest saw a video of all of Coach Mike’s teams to the tune of Boyz to Men’s “It’s Hard To Say Good-bye.” Rita Rogers introduced the Man of the Hour.
Paraphernalia from Buckner’s career at Northwestern University, NFL Miami Dolphins, and as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was displayed A commemorative football, signed by all Buchtel alumni football players, was given to the Coach as a memento.
The recognition committee did a fantastic job. Committee members were Bruce Barnes (’75), Duane Bland (’76), Jay Brophy (’79), Ray Brophy (’75), Tobin Buckner (’88), Bertram Griggs (’79), Deshawn Hawkins (’76), Mark Jackson (79), Bill Kirk (’78), Alan Manley (’78), Phillip Manley (’77), and Johnny Williams (’77).