Saskatchewan Roughriders

Ed Buchanen - Running Back - San Diego Junior College - 1963-67

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Jonathan Hamelin - Regina Leader Post - 20-09-2012 - Ed Buchanen's plaza induction was almost 40 years in the making

Rob Vanstone's wish has finally been granted: Ed Buchanan is to be induced into the Plaza of Honor.

"I was one of the people who championed Ed Buchanan," said Vanstone, Regina Leader-Post sports editor. Vanstone is a member of the Plaza of Honor selection committee, along with Roger Aldag, Bob Hughes, John Lipp, Al Ford, John Lynch and Lorne Harasen.

 

"I'm not saying this to congratulate myself on his induction. I just felt very strongly that this is somebody who had been overlooked," Vanstone continued. "If you look at what he did during his peak years with the Riders, they're some of the best years that a player can have.

"The majority rules on the committee, and I'm glad that, as a group, it was seen fit to induct him, because he's a very important player in a very important era of a very important team."

When examining Buchanan's contributions to the Riders, Vanstone seems right on the mark when he says that Buchanan's induction is long overdue. Buchanan's playing career ended over 40 years ago.

Buchanan, born in San Diego, Calif., suited up in the backfield for the Green and White from 1963 to 1967 and was one player who helped the Riders emerge as a successful franchise. The team started playing more competitively and in 1966 won the first Grey Cup in franchise history. Buchanan is still ninth all-time for Saskatchewan in rushing yards (2,799), 11th all-time in kickoff return yardage (1,530), tied for 23rd in rushing touchdowns (11) and 34th in receiving yardage (1,832).

Teamed up in the backfield with future Canadian Football Hall of Fame fullback George Reed, Buchanan - who "was quick as a hiccup" according to former teammate Jack Abendschan - helped create a dominant one-two punch.

"Mr. Inside, Mr. Outside," said Vanstone, author of West Riders Best and The Greatest Grey Cup Ever, two history books on the Roughriders. "George got the tough yards and Ed Buchanan just ran away from people."

"When he ran the sweep to the left or the right, he would make the field wider; he would run hard to the sidelines and most of the defensive players couldn't get there and they had trouble tackling him, so it was a big deal," added Hugh Campbell, former teammate. "They would put a smaller, quicker person on the defence and then George would run over them.

"If they ever gave Ed a step, nobody was going to catch him."

Not only was Buchanan a complement to Reed, but in 1964, he stole the show.

Buchanan's season was highlighted by 1,390 rushing yards (a team record at the time) and a 7.8-yard average, nine total touchdowns, 681 receiving yards and 352 kickoff return yards. Reed had just over 1,000 yards rushing that season.

"Look at those numbers from '64 and your eyeballs will pop out of your head," Vanstone said. "I'm not sure anybody in Rider history has had a better individual season than Ed Buchanan in '64.

"It is scary what he did that year."

Buchanan played a key role in the Riders' 1966 Grey Cup run. In the best-of-three Western Conference final against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Saskatchewan won the first game 14-7 at home. In the second game, Buchanan had a 73-yard touchdown run as Saskatchewan earned a 22-19 road victory. Then, in the 1966 Grey Cup, which saw Saskatchewan defeat the Ottawa Rough Riders by a score of 29-14, it was a tough over-the-shoulder catch by Buchanan that set up Al Ford's touchdown catch.
 

What makes Buchanan's contributions even more amazing is that the Riders acquired him off waivers from the Calgary Stampeders in 1963 for a measly $1,000. Buchanan didn't take long to make an impression. In the 1963 West Conference semifinal against the Stampeders, a twogame total point series, Calgary won the first game 35-9 against the visiting Riders. In the second game in Regina, Buchanan scored two touchdowns as Saskatchewan defeated the Stamps 39-12, improbably winning the series by one point (48-47). It's a game that has come to be known as the Little Miracle of Taylor Field.

So, with all that being said, why did it take so long for the Plaza to come calling?

"You have a lot of football players, and if you don't have a career that really stands out and everybody knows that you should go in, you just wait your turn," Reed said. "I'm happy his turn finally came around."

Of course, Reed is likely one of the reasons that it took so long for Buchanan to get the nod. While Buchanan's numbers began to dip after the 1964 season, largely due to injury (he played in only 10 games over the next two seasons), Reed began emerging as Saskatchewan's top running back, shattering Buchanan's rushing record with 1,768 yards in 1965. It's not hard to be overshadowed by Reed.

Also, in 1967, Buchanan was involved in an infamous play. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats defeated Saskatchewan 24-1 to win the Grey Cup. Though Buchanan had a game-high 99 receiving yards on four receptions, it was a catch he didn't make that was the focus of everyone's attention. After Hamilton opened the game with a touchdown, Buchanan ran a deep route and was wide open, but dropped what appeared to be a sure touchdown pass. Despite Ron Lancaster telling reporters that, "Had he caught that pass, we would have lost 24-8," many still remember Buchanan by that drop.

That was Buchanan's last season with the Riders. He played with the Tabbies in 1969 and 1970 before retiring.

Reed, however, focusses on the positives when talking about Buchanan's career.

"As a player, he had tremendous speed," Reed said. "I don't know if I've ever seen a ballplayer that could run as fast, because I don't even know if he knew how fast he could run. I just remember that he was always a threat to go all the way."

The positive words also come through when Buchanan's teammates remember him as a person.

"We had a great relationship both on and off the field," Reed said. "We were very good friends. We would joke around on the road. He would come over to the house."

"For me, it's more just the personality of a great football friend and a good guy," Campbell said. "He was fun to have on the team. He laughed a lot and he enjoyed the camaraderie of locker room.

"I just remember him being a very happy plus for the team."

Buchanan, who died of Lou Gehrig's disease in 1991 at the age of 51, won't be around to give a speech following his induction into the Plaza of Honor.
 

Though the induction comes many years after his career finished and some may focus more on the negatives than the positives of his time with the Riders, one gets the feeling that Buchanan would speak only positively about his time with the Green and White.

Being picked up by Saskatchewan, he told the Leader-Post in 1964, "Was the best thing that ever happened to me."
 

-- statistics --

 

 

Ed Buchanen San Diego Jr. College
  Rushing        
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1961 Cgy 45 348 7.7 40 1
1962 Cgy 136 824 6.1 86 7
1963 Ssk 86 447 5.2 30 2
1964 Ssk 179 1,390 7.8 93 7
1965 Ssk 24 86 3.6 15 0
1966 Ssk 32 181 5.7 43 0
1967 Ssk 120 695 5.8 85 2
1968 Did Not Play      
1969 Ham 62 281 4.5 20 1
1970 Ham 112 605 5.4 78 4
Total 9 796 4857 6.1 93 24

 

  Receiving        
Yr Team C Yds Avg Lg TD
1961 Cgy 10 264 26.4 63 3
1962 Cgy 30 450 15.0 75 3
1963 Ssk 22 291 13.2 36 1
1964 Ssk 36 681 18.9 48 2
1965 Ssk 4 87 21.8 28 0
1966 Ssk 14 296 21.1 80 3
1967 Ssk 33 477 14.5 53 2
1968 Did Not Play      
1969 Ham 35 555 15.9 83 5
1970 Ham 35 500 14.3 68 2
Total 9 219 3601 16.4 83 21