The Legend of Joel Buchsbaum

April 29th, 2021

(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 air 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 of the old St. Louis Cardinals. He 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: an unkept 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 Mel Kiper, not even by Pat Kirwan or Michael Lombardi.

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, often beginning his responses with “Ooohhh-KAY!” as if he was revving up the engine of a Mustang just before putting the rig into gear.

Periodically, Buchsbaum would invoke 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 was like fresh honey to flies. 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 18 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 and college inside sources. Included at the top of the list was Bill Belicheat, who tried to hire Buchsbaum several times but was spurned with each offer.

So as Day 1 of the draft is here, and maybe by midnight we find out if Elijah Moore or Travis Etienne will be terrorizing Bucs opponents for the next decade, 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 — a non-team employee — in the hours leading to the draft, a practice which is absolutely unheard of in NFL circles.

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.

Enjoy this weekend’s draft!

21 Responses to “The Legend of Joel Buchsbaum”

  1. Erick Says:

    Shouldn’t this article be coming out tomorrow, Joe?

  2. Swampbuc Says:

    Love these historical vignettes, Joe. Thanks.

  3. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Gone but never forgotten.

    Thanks Joe.

  4. SB~LV Says:

    The golden age of the mock draft and the draft itself!

  5. FortMyersDave Says:

    Great story Joe, thanks for posting it! You are right about KMOX being a blowtorch. I remember back in the ’80s and first half of the ’90s listening to a few Cardinal games on it in both Tallahassee and Tuscaloosa AL when the Braves were not on the radio and I think on a good night the signal could be heard in Tampa. This was right before sports talk radio became popular in the ’90s, like 820 The Team AM which also was a 50 K blowtorch and could be heard from the panhandle/AL/GA down to the Glades. I probably heard Buchsbaum a few times and did not even realize it. Great history lesson Joe, there is a lot to be said of the golden years of clear channel radio and the 50 to 100K blowtorches of years past…

  6. JGhotier Says:

    Beautifully written article Joe

    (I’m assuming you meant Elijah Moore and not Isiah Moore too)

  7. Durango 95 Says:

    His annual Draft Previews of 1987 through 1994 I threw away moving to a new home. Regretted it ever since.

  8. Kevin Says:

    I love reading this article each and every year. You know it’s draft day when the Joel Buschbaum article is up.

  9. SKBucsFan Says:

    Let’s hope he guides Jason Licht this most sacred of football weekends.

  10. August 1976 Buc Says:

    Same here Joe, love seeing this every draft day. JBF Keep on Keepin on!! BTW I will say it again, JBF is the best Bucs blog IMO…GO BUCS

  11. Joe Says:

    Thanks guys.

  12. LargoBuc Says:

    I reread this article every single year. It’s become a tradition. The first thing I do on the morning of the first day of the draft is look for this article. It’s so well written. Thank you Joe.

  13. Buddhaboy19 Says:

    Always love this one Joe. If you are one thing, it’s loyal.

  14. Joe Says:

    Thanks again guys. 👍

  15. adam from ny Says:

    joel b…kang of brooklyn

  16. OrlandoBucFan Says:

    I used to anxiously wait for Joel Buschsbaum’s draft digest every spring. It was so comprehensive. I had a stack of them in my private library (my bathroom) and would get a lot of joy out of reading the old editions after players had time to prove themselves. I still buy draft digests, but they are not anywhere in the same league as Joel’s. In fact, I don’t get why publishers today don’t wait until after the first few days of free agency before writing their summaries of team needs. Anyway, I am glad to see you are paying respect to a legend.

  17. Colin in Canada Says:

    Draft day tradition. Keep up the great work Joes and Ira

  18. james white Says:

    lived in st louis from 64-86…i’ll never forget joel..thanks for the yearly tribute

  19. firethecannons Says:

    Thanks Joe,, the guy will live forever thanks to you! Love it!

  20. JaxBucsFan Says:

    Thanks Joe. I look forward to re-reading this every year!

  21. theodore Says:

    Joe – The last link to Peter King MMQB is dead 🙁