The Legend Of Joel Buchsbaum

April 30th, 2015

(This is a repost of a previously published article Joe runs as an annual tradition for the morning of the first day of the NFL draft.)

Joe’s going to go slightly personal here, a rare, albeit tiny window into Joe’s background on this holiest of high football holidays.

Joe got hooked on the NFL draft as a kid from an alien-like voice that floated through the Midwestern night and originated from a city Joe finally visited for the first time in September 2012.

Growing up as a kid, there were two people who turned Joe into the football freak he is today. One was Joe’s high school football coach, a guy who played for a virtual who’s who of football coaches: John Madden, Tom Landry, Gene Stallings and Lou Holtz. It kills Joe how much he has forgotten about football from a man unknown by 99.99999 percent of the populace. Joe remembers covering his first NFL training camp warmly. There, grizzled Stallings was the head coach who vividly remembered Joe’s high school coach playing for him. After learning Joe played for one of his protegés, Stallings treated Joe like one of his family members.

The second source fueling Joe’s unwavering football fetish came from an unlikely location: a Brooklyn apartment.

Joe first heard of Joel Buchsbaum on a blowtorch radio station out of St. Louis, KMOX. There, each Monday night (prior to Monday Night Football), and Sunday night (during the offseason), Buchsbaum, the original draftnik, would talk to strangers throughout the Midwest, giving listeners knowledge on college football players and the NFL that, to this day, Joe finds unmatched — not even by Mike Mayock, not even by Mel Kiper, not even by Pat Kirwan.

People would call the show and ask Buchsbaum about (pick a player), and often before the caller finished his question, Buchsbaum would interrupt and begin rattling off the talents and drawbacks of said player, periodically invoking his favorite saying of lesser players, “Looks like Tarzan; plays like Jane.”

Pleasantries were not a forte of Buchsbaum. He was not rude, not even close, but he was very short and impatient with rambling callers.

Joe remembers some guy asking Buchsbaum about (name of the player long ago forgotten), who the caller claimed was a starting cornerback at Utah. Buchsbaum, in his shrill, nasally, thick Brooklyn accent, corrected the caller almost immediately. No, the player is not from Utah, Buchsbaum said, but from Utah State. And in fact he was a backup cornerback.

This did not stop Buchsbaum from launching into why the player was not starting and why coaches didn’t start him despite the promise he showed. Mind you, this was long before the days of laptops, so Buchsbaum couldn’t have Googled the player’s name in five seconds to pull up his information (partially because neither Google nor the Internet existed).

It was unreal what this guy knew. And in Joe’s circle of fellow football friends, guys who rarely if ever listened to an AM station, Buchsbaum had their attention. He was like the Rain Man.

Fast forward maybe 15 years and the Sporting News decided to find out who was the best draftnik. They researched Buchsbaum, Mel Kiper and a third guy Joe had not heard of before and still can’t remember. The Sporting News broke down each man’s final mock draft through four rounds for three consecutive years.

Buchsbaum won not only the race, but he had more correct picks each year.

Buchsbaum, a recluse, died 13 years ago. In a perverted way Joe was jealous of the guy. All he did was study football, read football, write football, talk football and work his many NFL inside sources, which included at the top of the list, Bill Belicheat, who tried to hire Buchsbaum but was spurned with each offer.

So as Day 1 of the draft is here, and in a few hours or so we find out if Jameis Winston will be slinging passes for the Bucs, Joe can’t help but remember Buchsbaum and that unforgettable voice.

Here’s a nugget from acclaimed football scribe, and friend of Buchsbaum, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Did you know Buchsbaum was on ESPN when the network first televised the draft? He looked like such a nerd. I imagine the network executives didn’t like the way he looked or sounded, so they hired Mel “Ki-pa.”

Chad Finn of the Boston Globe decided to dig up Buchsbaum’s breakdown of Tom Brady coming out of Michigan and with the “positives,” Buchsbaum nailed the analysis.

Positives: Good height to see the field. Very poised and composed. Smart and alert. Can read coverages. Good accuracy and touch. Produces in big spots and big games. Has some Brian Griese in him and is a gamer. Generally plays within himself. Team leader.

Negatives: Poor build. Very skinny and narrow. Ended the ’99 season weighing 195 pounds and still looks like a rail at 211. Looks a little frail and lacks great physical stature and strength. Can get pushed down more easily than you’d like. Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush. Lacks a really strong arm. Can’t drive the ball down the field and does not throw a really tight spiral. System-type player who can get exposed if he must ad-lib and do things on his own.

Summary: Is not what you’re looking for in terms of physical stature, strength, arm strength, and mobility but he has the intangibles and production and showed great Griese-like improvement as a senior. Could make it in the right system but is not for everyone.

Urban legend is that Belicheat, one of the few friends Buchsbaum had, took a flyer on Brady based on Buchsbaum’s recommendation. Belicheat since has acknowledged he would annually go over his draft board with Buchsbaum in the hours leading to the draft.

Joe will raise a bottle of beer tonight for Buchsbaum … after the draft and when Joe is finished banging out story after story.

Here and here and here are some cool stories about Buchsbaum.

18 Responses to “The Legend Of Joel Buchsbaum”

  1. tval Says:

    Very cool! Oh, and Bucs source says players were informed that Winston will be their selection. Source also said that he was still in town as of this afternoon

    8:37 PM – 29 Apr 2015

  2. Patrick in VA Says:

    It’s not draft day without the Joel Buschbaum article. Gonna be a good day.

  3. Dreambig Says:

    Joe – great artical! It’s gonna be a long day at work!

  4. R.O. Says:

    Nice try… Picture and article of JW in Bessemer getting a haircut. This is the information age…

  5. Stanglassman Says:

    This was a big day in my Family growing up with my older brother and father. We would start the day trying to get the booth next to the Bucs coaching staff & GM for Breakfast at the Tahitian Inn (where they always meet pre-draft & Monday mornings after games) to try to get some insight on who they were going to draft. On the way home we would stop at SuperX to essentials of thumbtacks, sharpies, cardboard and note cards to make up our war room. This was the late 70′ early 80’s and I was the youngest by 10 years so my job was to cut out all the news paper sports pages of player list and sporting news draft profiles. My Mother would come in the room and just shake her head because we were all fixated on the radio and the walls were covered with prospective players names. I remember my brother calling the Tampa times sports writers more than once to find out who the Bucs picked because the national broadcaster would just ship who the Bucs selected to talk more about the jets (or whatever large city) players. Today my Brother and I still skype for the draft and he still has his sportingnews and notebook covered with players names & notes.

  6. ToesOnTheLine! Says:

    Cool article Joe. Too bad we couldn’t have gotten Buchsbaum’s take on Fowler, Matiota, Williams, and Winston. Here’s to hoping whoever the pick(s) end up being they pan out.

  7. NicevilleLawrence Says:

    He is like the Comic book guy of NFL nerd dom. Love it Joe.

    GO Bucs

  8. Stanglassman Says:

    More like the Steven Hawking of the NFL Universe.

  9. Harry Says:

    I remember listening to Bushbaum on the radio every draft. He was every bit the draftnik Joe says. The guy was awesome. Thanks for the memories, Joe. I enjoy reading this again every year too.

  10. Joe Says:

    Thanks for the kind words guys.

  11. Joe Says:


    Cool story, thanks for sharing.

  12. DrHoagy Says:

    A fellow Brooklynite, I remember him well. He was what Mel Kiper wishes he could be.
    His untimely passing left a hole that still hasn’t been filled and IMHO can’t be filled. Nobody had his level of knowledge and ability to not only judge if somebody’s college play would translate to the NFL but also project the level of success.
    To say he was unique is a gross understatement.

  13. jb Says:

    Great Article Joe!
    I remember reading all of Joel’s breakdowns in the Pro Football Weekly newspaper I subscribed to back in the 70’s until they filed bankruptcy for the 2nd time a few years ago.

    Buschbaum was one of their biggest contributors back in the day.

  14. miken Says:

    cool stuff Joe

  15. mdsbuc Says:

    Before the internet, and before ESPN, there was PFW and Joel Buchsbaum. They were the word…

  16. Idontwannahearitanymore Says:

    And Joel Buchsbaum says Tampa Bay is going to select…

  17. WS99 Says:

    Like! The guy had passion for the game. That’s really all it takes to be great!

  18. A Must Read on Joel Buchsbaum | The Nosebleeds NFL Blog Says:

    […] already talked about Joel Buchsbaum here. But has a great tribute post to the man himself too. The draft is over, but it is still a must read if you missed it at the tail end of last […]