As a punter, Maury Buford was accustomed to kicking a football high into the air, as close to the roofs of indoor stadiums as possible. Now, as a roofing and construction company owner, he has literally “raised the roof” on many homes in the Dallas, Texas, area. As a Catholic, he spiritually “raises the roof” by embracing the teachings Jesus Christ as passed down through his Church.
Buford knows that even winning the Super Bowl is nothing compared to what is to come for those who return God’s love in this life.
Buford, who comes from a family of seven children, was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1982 and was traded to the Chicago Bears in the 1985 preseason. Immediately following was the Bears’ stellar 15-1 regular season, capped off by an easy road to, and victory in, the Super Bowl that saw the Bears outscore their postseason opponents 91-10. He also played one season for the New York Giants in a career that would span 10 seasons.
Buford recently spoke of his Super Bowl experience and this year’s matchup between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons Sunday — along with his deep appreciation for being Catholic.
What do you think of the Patriots-Falcons matchup?
The Falcons have a great offense, led by Matt Ryan. Their running game is solid, and wide receiver Julio Jones is amazing. I got to see him in college, and he was good then, but he has taken his game to a new level. The Falcons have been playing very well, but the Patriots will probably be their biggest challenge of the season.
Give Bill Belichick and his staff two weeks to prepare for a game, and they will find their opponent’s weaknesses and exploit them to the hilt. I expect it to be a high-scoring game that might end by being Tom Brady’s fifth Super Bowl win. He’s an incredible quarterback and has done things other players can only admire.
How did you handle the media circus for your Super Bowl?
There was media buildup for our Super Bowl 31 years ago, but not as much as today, [although] the same thing is true now that was then. The game doesn’t change; it’s still football, so if you can just keep your mind on that, things will go well.
I was nervous before our Super Bowl, but I got nervous before every game. Punters and placekickers only have a few opportunities during each game to make a difference. On those opportunities, all the attention is on you. Your mistakes are magnified for everyone to see, so if you aren’t prepared to move on quickly from a bad kick, it can really mess you up.
What helped to calm me down was to imagine myself beforehand executing my roles well. That meant taking every punting situation possible and envisioning it going well. I’d imagine us having to punt from anywhere on the field, including being backed up with my heels on the end zone line. Each time, in my mind, the punt would go high and long. That preparation worked out great in the game, because when we really were in those situations I had imagined, I was ready for them. I had programmed myself to do in reality what I had already done in my mind.
What are some of your fondest memories of the Super Bowl?
That whole season was amazing. We were probably one of the best teams ever to play in the NFL, going 15-1 in the regular season and 3-0 in the postseason. There were many lopsided victories due to how well we played as a team. Everything fell into place at the right time, and it was a thrill to be a part of. It was disappointing that we only won one championship.
It was great to win the Super Bowl, but even greater was seeing the reactions of my family and friends. They seemed to enjoy it more than I did. I was concentrating on the game; they were concentrating on having a good time. Fans only see the team on game day; they don’t really think of the work behind the results. They just have fun.
As a player, I had to be there Tuesday through Saturday for team meetings, watching film, lifting weights and practicing. To be honest, that part was sometimes fun, but sometimes boring as all get-out. It gives you the preparation you need, though, and it reaffirms that all the work put in during the week pays off when you win. You know all the tedious stuff that goes into winning, so you understand how important the work is.
Were there other Catholics on the team?
There were plenty of Catholics involved in that 1985 Bears’ season. The owners of the team, the McCaskeys, and head coach Mike Ditka, were the most prominent ones. Danny Abramowicz was a special teams coach with the Bears in 1992, but he wasn’t with the team in 1985.
Walter Payton was not a Catholic, but he would sit in on Masses we had and afterward would walk up to Father Nick Marro and say, “Padre, give me a blessing.” I think those special blessings, in addition to the ones he had received at the end of Mass with everyone else, were a part of what made Walter so great. The prayers of the Church are very powerful.
Personal prayer is huge, too. I never prayed to win a game, but I always prayed that we would play up to our potential and that no one would get hurt. I played in junior high, high school, college and 10 years professionally — all without any injury of consequence. I never missed a single game or practice, which I see as an answer to prayer.
In addition to prayer, what have you found most helpful about being a follower of Christ?
Where is one to start? Well, the sacraments — and Communion, specifically — are extremely helpful. The Body and Blood of Christ, which we get to receive because of the transubstantiation that occurs at every Mass, is mind-blowing. That puts us in touch with God in an unparalleled way — a way no one would have thought possible, had Our Lord not done it.
When I played in the NFL, we went to Europe for preseason games. Whether it was Germany, Sweden or England, the Mass is the same all over the world. Yes, the language may have been different, but what was going on during Mass was the same thing that goes on in a church in Texas or New York or Florida. That uniformity of worship sets us apart as Catholics, and it’s possible because we are blessed to be in the same Church that Jesus Christ started. He wanted one single Church, not thousands of denominations with conflicting ideas of what worship is.
Have you always taken the faith seriously?
I went to Mass every Sunday — even throughout college — but I didn’t always act appropriately during the week. When our first child was born, it really hit home for me in a deep way how much God loves us. I thought about Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son when God asked it of him and how God the Father sacrificed his own Son. I looked at my newborn son sleeping in his bassinette and wondered if I would be able to sacrifice him if God asked me. I don’t think I would, which just highlights all the more how much God loves us. If he can give his Son for us, what will he withhold from us that is truly valuable?
I don’t recall changing a diaper before I had kids, and if I had been asked to do so, I’d probably be repulsed by the prospect. Yet when the baby was mine, I had no problem with that at all, or helping out in any other way. When you love someone, the work put in for that person doesn’t seem like work. [It’s] all different ways of expressing your love for the person, so it’s a joy.
My wife, Dana, and I have two sons and two daughters, and we would have had more, had we been able to do so. I’m one of seven kids myself, so I’m used to being in a family like Philip Rivers has. I admire him for being open to life and for all the other great things he has done. Most of us don’t have a platform to share Catholicism like he has, but we can all live our Catholic teachings in simple ways.
I try to read part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church every day. Some people might be intimidated by the book, but if it’s taken in small steps, it goes smoothly and makes sense. It’s a summary of what we believe as Catholics, so everyone in the Church should be interested in that.
Since you’re in construction, do you have a devotion to St. Joseph?
St. Joseph is not one of my top saints, but he probably should be. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves as the foster father of Our Lord. That must have been an incredible office to hold — being the head of the Holy Family. You have God-made-man and the mother of God-made-man in the family, and you’re supposed to lead them. That’s mind-boggling.
St. Anthony and St. Faustina have been my two big saints. I chose St. Anthony as my patron for confirmation and have relied on him for years. Whenever I or someone in my family has lost something, we have always found it after praying to St. Anthony — every single time.
St. Faustina is a saint I’ve become acquainted with more recently. The message of Divine Mercy that Our Lord proclaimed through her is powerful and humbling. It’s something everyone needs, and we are guaranteed of it if we accept it on Our Lord’s conditions. I have a Divine Mercy Chaplet CD in my truck that I play when I get anxious about something. People talk about making spiritual communions when they can’t make them sacramentally. Well, the Divine Mercy Chaplet is basically a spiritual Mass for when we aren’t in church. It’s offering the Body and Blood of Christ to God the Father.
Another thing I listen to in the truck is Catholic radio. Buford Roofing advertises on Guadalupe Radio, the affiliate in our area. The work of Dave Palmer, general manager of the station, is so appreciated. We can listen to programs like Catholic Answers Live and The Journey Home to learn more about the faith passed on from the apostles.
Have you learned things from football that can be applied to life in general?
Football is the greatest team sport because it mirrors life in general and business specifically. Just one example is that, in football, you will get knocked down on your rear end. The question is, “How will you handle that?” You can stay there and sulk or you can get back up, adjust and move on. Everyone has unexpected setbacks and big disappointments, but it’s up to each person to make a decision to deal with them. We all have that choice.
However, one way football is different than life in general is that now there aren’t 100,000 people cheering as I enter the office. That’s good, though, and it’s what 99% of people experience when they go to work. They don’t have fans; they just do what they’re supposed to do. That makes it easier to accept death when it inevitably comes, because there’s not a huge attachment to the world that needs to be discarded.
My mom died four years ago, and my dad died one year ago. I was at another funeral recently where someone gave the advice, “Don’t be scared; be prepared.” That’s easier for a Catholic to do than for a non-Catholic, since we have a visible, concrete means of achieving it in the Church. If we need to get right with God, the sacrament of reconciliation is there for us. Whether we personally get to play in a Super Bowl or whether our favorite team gets there, the one and only thing we’ll value at the time of death is being in union with God.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
His book, Fit for Heaven (Dynamic Catholic, 2015), contains numerous Catholic sports
interviews, most of which have appeared in the Register.