In the emotional moment when Deone Bucannon’s life changed he had to take the most public phone call of his life.
Surrounded by an estimated 25 to 30 friends and family members, the three-time All-Pac-12 safety became the first person to know that the Arizona Cardinals were making him their first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
“They were excited and telling me what they were excited about me, as a player what they wanted out of me: to get in there and bring aggression and play my game,” Bucannon said. “It was a bunch of stuff when they called and a lot of it I didn’t really hear because I was in the middle of a couple of emotions and it meant a lot that they said they were going to draft me.”
The strong safety is the highest selection out of WSU since Marcus Trufant went No. 11 to the Seattle Seahawks in 2003. Bucannon ranks third in WSU history with 15 career interceptions and fourth in total tackles with 348.
He also had team highs in forced fumbles with three, and fumble recoveries with two. He is the first WSU defensive back drafted since the Oakland Raiders took Eric Frampton in the fifth round of the 2007 draft.
The Cardinals moved down in the draft by trading the No. 20 pick to the Saints in exchange for the No. 27 as well as a third-round pick, No. 91 overall.
“He’s a great kid,” John Schneider, the general manager of the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks, said. “He’s really, really tough, very aggressive, great range. I wish they would have taken a punter.”
In college Bucannon was known for his big hits and he led the Pac-12 with 114 tackles, as well as leading the Cougars with five interceptions. He’ll fit right in with the physical NFC West division as the Cardinals try to build a defense resembling the 49ers and the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks.
The team had one of the NFL’s top defenses a year ago, but struggled against tight ends and running backs in the passing game. The addition of the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Bucannon is intended to rectify that singular weakness.
“Honestly I’m just going to go in there and I’m going to work. Whatever the coaches ask, whatever my role is and whatever they need me to do, that’s what I’m going to do,” Bucannon said. “Whether its within my game, being aggressive, being willing to stick my nose in the ball carrier, whatever they need me to do, special teams, it doesn’t matter.”
Last year Arizona ranked sixth in overall defense, allowing just 317.4 yards per game and a best-in-the-NFL 84.4 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals intercepted 20 passes last season, tied for fifth in the league.
Bucannon joins a strong secondary, headlined by All-Pro cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie and Tyrann Matthieu at safety. The addition on Thursday of an All-American at the other safety spot rounds out what could be one of the NFL’s most complete defensive backfields.
“We’ve got some guys here to help him and teach him and give him opportunities to knock the crap out of people in our division,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.