Randy Buck started his Penn State education at Penn State-Hazelton in the fall of 1998. The 5’10”, 280 pound defensive lineman found his way onto the field inside Beaver Stadium in front of a sell-out crowd a few years later. He joined the football team in 2001 as a walk-on and only played in one game as a Nittany Lion. It was the closing minutes of the final regular-season game in 2002, a 61-7 blowout of Michigan State that saw Larry Johnson rush for over 2000 yards on the season.
Buck’s path through Penn State is one that many non-athletes have taken. A couple of years at a satellite campus, and then two years in State College. His story isn’t much different than that of Daniel Ruettiger, of the movie Rudy fame, but his connection to his coach is much stronger.
When Joe Paterno passed in January of 2012, Buck was interviewed by the Citizen’s Voice of Wilkes-Barre. The impact that Paterno had on his life, as a practice player that only saw the field once as a courtesy, illustrates why many people have a great deal of respect for the former Penn State coach. Buck said in the interview that what impressed him the most about Paterno is that he knew every little detail, where Buck was from and so on, for a practice player that would never likely get playing time.
Buck got his Penn State degree in 2002 alongside more heralded defensive lineman such as Anthony Adams. He then walked-on in the field of education. Starting out as a school counselor, he has slowly worked his way up the ranks. After serving as an assistant principal at Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts in 2014, he made it to the ‘show’ in 2015 as a grade-level principal for Easton Area Senior High School. Last month Buck was promoted to the starting lineup when he became the principal of Easton Area Academy.
His career could easily be overlooked by Penn State football fans, but the positive impact that he has had on the program, and the people in his life, should be appreciated. There are likely a few players on the team this year that will lead similarly productive lives, as representatives of Penn State and the football program, although they may never see the field.
His life after leaving Penn State is similar to another sports film character, a small town doctor, Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams. The scene when Graham tells of his short time in the major leagues before he became a doctor and Kevin Costner’s character reacts that most people would see it as a tragedy to come so near to your dream and not attain it. Graham replies, “If I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes, now that would have been a tragedy.”
Randy Buck never made it to the NFL. He only saw the field, for all of his effort as a practice player, once and for less than five minutes. But for the children, families, and community in Northampton County Pennsylvania, it would have been a tragedy had he only been an educator for five minutes.
Only 62 more days until the start of the season!