SANTA CLARA -- DeForest Buckner received an invitation to attend the NFL Draft in Chicago.
But rather than take part in the festivities along with many of the top NFL prospects, he decided to remain home in Hawaii. He was surrounded by dozens of family and friends, many of them wearing replicas of his Oregon No. 44 jersey, as the draft got underway.
“I definitely considered it,” Buckner said of declining the trip to Chicago. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With things that were happening, I felt like it was a better decision to stay home with my family.”
[MAIOCCO: 49ers select Oregon DT Buckner in Round 1 of 2016 draft]
Buckner thought there was a strong possibility he could go to the San Diego Chargers with the No. 3 overall pick. But four spots later, the room erupted in cheers when the 49ers selected Buckner with the No. 7 overall pick.
Buckner reunites with his college teammate, Arik Armstead, the 49ers’ top pick last year, and the men who recruited him to Oregon, head coach Chip Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro.
“Man, I’m probably the happiest guy in the draft right now,” Buckner said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
San Francisco 49ers
Just hours earlier, Armstead talked about the possibility that Buckner could be the 49ers’ first-round selection.
“If we end up playing together again, that would be awesome,” Armstead said. “That’s my guy. We motivate each other."
Buckner, like Armstead, plays defensive end. Both are 6-foot-7 and enter the NFL at 290 pounds. Buckner appears better-suited to playing the right side, while Armstead generally lines up on the left side.
“We’re both similar in size and everything,” Buckner said. “And we both play in the same scheme. I feel like I’m really aggressive. He’s aggressive, too. But I’m really aggressive and I like to use my hands a lot in the pass-rush game. I like to use a lot of power in my game, too. At the same time, when guys expect power, I’m using my athleticism. I’m pretty athletic for my size.”
Buckner took four visits during the draft process, making trips to San Diego, Tennessee, Dallas and Jacksonville. After speaking with Kelly and Azzinaro at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February, he did not speak with the 49ers again, he said. The next time he heard from the team, it was Kelly on the other line to tell him he was heading to Santa Clara.
“I think it was because they already knew who I was,” Buckner said. “Coach Kelly and coach Azz both recruited me. I felt like they already knew who I was as a person. There wasn’t much to get to know.
“I didn’t feel shunned at all.”