Former USC kicker David Buehler turns heads at NFL combine
A former 49er kicker used to tell the story of how he was stopped by security, thinking he was a fan trying to sneak into the locker room. There have only been a handful -- Sebastian Janikowski and Jeff Reed come to mind -- that might be able to hold their own in a bar fight, much less take down a professional football player in full pads. Denver's Todd Sauerbrun tried to talk tough going into a game against Devon Hester and the Chicago Bears in 2007. Don't remember Sauerbrun? Exactly.
That could change for one team with the arrival of David Buehler. The former high school linebacker looks like he could still play the position -- but he prefers to bring home the bacon by kicking the pigskin.
At USC, Buehler (pronounced like "dealer," not Ferris Bueller) was known for a booming leg. He started his Trojan career as a backup in 2006 by connecting on a 49-yard field goal attempt. He spent the past two seasons on the first team.
But at 6-feet-2, 227 pounds, Buehler could have played somewhere else on the field. In fact, the Trojans experimented with him as a fullback and as a safety in practice. He wound up making five career tackles in kick coverage.
Kickers aren't required to lift at the NFL Combine, but Buehler did -- outperforming many linebackers, tight ends and even offensive linemen. He bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times in a row -- which would have made him the strongest cornerback, second-strongest wide receiver, third-strongest safety, fourth-strongest tight end, sixth-strongest running back and eighth-strongest linebacker at the weeklong event. He actually lifted more than a couple linemen who are projected as first-round picks.
Impressive -- but what about, you know, his kicking? According to Sports Illustrated, Buehler "had the strongest kickoff leg as most of his kicks went 70+ yards deep into the opposite end zone. His problem came during the field goal portion of the session as Buehler missed on all three attempts from 50 yards."
NFL teams are always hesitant to draft kickers, but don't be surprised to see Buehler get picked up as a free agent. His cannon, um, leg might be enough of a reason, but his athletic versatility could help ensure that he makes it as a pro.
According to USCRipsIt.com, Buehler will be on Tony Bruno's national radio show tonight (Wednesday) at 7:45 p.m. (heard locally on AM 570 KLAC), and will appear on ESPN2's "First Take" at 7:50 a.m. Thursday. You can also read more about Buehler's NFL combine experience from his guest blogs on PeteCarroll.com.
-- Adam Rose
Photo: Former USC kicker David Buehler, who seems like a linebacker and could have been a fullback or safety, warms up for football by playing volleyball with a soccer ball. Naturally. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times