Marques Buford and Alante Brown grew up in Chicago talking about maybe someday playing on the same team.
It didn’t happen in high school and they’re going to miss each other by a year at a Connecticut prep school, but come January 2021, at long last their plan will come to fruition.
That’s because Buford, a three-star defensive back who played his final two years of high school ball in Texas and now is headed to St. Thomas More in Connecticut for a postgraduate year, gave his verbal commitment to Nebraska on Saturday afternoon.
Marques Buford isn't going to jolt Nebraska up the recruiting rankings lists. But DBs coach Travis Fisher doesn't care about that.
Francois is the second of four defensive back signees from Florida to leave the NU program before ever playing a snap.
“I’ve known Alante since like fourth grade,” Buford told the Journal Star. “We were always talking about him coming to my high school or me going to his, but once I decided to leave for Texas, it was like, ‘Well, I guess that’s not going to happen.'"
Now, though, it will.
Buford, listed at 6-foot and 180 pounds, is from Chicago and played his first two years at Bolingbrook High. Then he went to Trinity Christian High in Texas for two years before deciding to reclassify 2021 and play a post-graduate year at St. Thomas More. The coronavirus pandemic scrambled those plans at least temporarily, but he's still planning to head to Connecticut in late August to get ready for the semester and a season.
Buford used that friendship with Brown to his advantage during his recruitment, too. They’re close enough that Buford recently visited Lincoln on his own — an NCAA dead period due to the pandemic prohibits any formal in-person recruiting — and he spent time with Brown while in town.
“Me and my parents went just to see what it would be like as far as life without football and how it felt without any of that stuff, and we loved it,” Buford said.
During that visit to town, Buford tweeted, "Once I'm in, I'm all in,” and now he’s all in with the Huskers.
“Nebraska did a fantastic job recruiting me, but not only me,” said Buford, adding that he heard primarily from defensive coordinator Erik Chinander and Travis Fisher but regularly from several others, too. “The coaches were in constant contact with me, but they were also reaching out to my parents on a daily basis and checking in on them.
“I feel like that was the biggest difference between them and any of the other schools.”
St. Thomas More head coach Jason Manson hasn’t actually had the opportunity to work with Buford in person yet, but he’s heard and seen nothing but good things in the contact that he’s been able to have digitally so far.
“From what I know, Marques is a great kid,” Manson said. “He’s got that swagger of a big-time player. He’s got personality, that definitely pops out, but then he also has the humility and the work ethic as well. From the conversations we’ve had … you can tell that he’s a leader and you can tell that he’s an elite type of athlete and that he’s passionate about playing football at a high level in addition to achieving academically.
“He seems like an all-around great kid. And I’ve got nothing but high recommendations on him as well. I can’t wait to get him here and actually work with him this fall.”
The coach is confident that Buford could be a difference-maker on offense — and he said it’s possible Buford will play some there depending on how (and if) the season progresses — but for now St. Thomas More’s plan is to play him at safety and let him run the defense’s back end. The plan in Lincoln is likely a similar one, though Buford could start his college career either as a cornerback or a safety.
“He does phenomenal things with the ball in his hands,” Manson said. “But I think for us, initially, he would secure our defense in the back end at safety.”
In 2019 at Trinity Christian, Buford logged 40 tackles and three interceptions defensively in addition to 439 offensive yards (412 receiving) and seven touchdowns, according to MaxPreps.
“My freshman year (in Illinois), I played all offense and started on varsity and then my sophomore year I kind of made the transition to playing primarily defensive back,” Buford said. “On defense, you can control the game. At receiver, the quarterback dictates whether you get the ball, whether you’re open or not.
“On defense, you’re in control. And that, plus my aggression and everything like that, that led me to the defensive side of the ball.”
Buford expects to be a midyear enrollee at Nebraska regardless of what happens to STM’s season this fall. He picked Nebraska over schools such as Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Iowa State, California and several others. Buford is rated a three-star prospect by both Rivals and 247Sports, while the latter service considers him to be the best prep school player in the country for the 2021 cycle.