Last season Waianae native DeForest Buckner made Hawaii football history becoming the first born-and-raised defensive player from the Aloha State to be selected as a National Football League All-Star.
The 25-year-old 49ers defensive lineman enjoyed the first Pro Bowl campaign of his three year career in 2018 as the former first-round draft choice out of Oregon recorded a career high 12 sacks.
On Sunday, Buckner celebrated his first weekend back home in the islands by hitting the field with more than 600 keiki at the seventh annual Gauntlet Football Camp on the campus of Pearl City High School presented by the Bennett Foundation free of charge.
The camp which is hosted by Buckner’s offseason training partner and Hawaii Kai resident Michael Bennett of the Patriots serves as not only an unforgettable experience for the youngsters, but according to Buckner the memories serve as a two way street.
“It’s all about inspiration. Being able to inspire these little kids to do a little more, pushing themselves, and just being able to be here and be in the present, be in the moment, it’s definitely a blessing,” Buckner told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello.
“Being able to come back out and give back with Mike (Bennett) and Ma’a (Tanuvasa) and all the volunteer coaches that are here which is awesome. Being able to give back to the youth and teach them a little thing about some of the knowledge that we know. Whether it’s pop Warner, or going through high school, middle school, all that. They can take a little knowledge from us and being able to see how it’s done. When you have the opportunity being able to give back.”
For the Punahou graduate, Buckner is entering the final year of his original rookie contract.
The team exercised its fifth-year option in April, which means he will stay with the 49ers until at least the 2020 season.
“I don’t take any days for granted. Every time that I walk out of that tunnel, it’s definitely surreal to me. Being able to do what I love for a living. It’s a blessing, and it’s the best opportunity that I have ever gotten. I try to take advantage of that opportunity every time I walk on the field,” added Buckner.