CHIPPEWA FALLS — Willie Buchanon lives in his hometown of San Diego, but he loves coming back to Wisconsin to represent the Green Bay Packers.
Buchanon, 68, was a cornerback with the Packers from 1972 until 1978, then played four more years with the San Diego Chargers. The 1972 league rookie of the year and two-time Pro Bowler spoke at the Lambeau Field Live exhibit Thursday at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair and posed for pictures with the crowd gathered for his speech.
"This is great," Buchanon said of the crowd on hand. "There are great fans here, and we want to thank them for continuing to support the Packers."
The Lambeau Field Live exhibit, which debuted at the fair last year, features an artificial turf field laid in the center of the grounds and trailers filled with Packers' exhibits and memorabilia that surrounds the mini-football field. The exhibit, which was created to celebrate the football team's 100-year anniversary, is not expected to return in future years.
Buchanon said he feels honored he was able to play in the league for more than a decade.
"It was fascinating; it was fun," he said. "I told myself when it stopped being fun, I wouldn't play anymore."
Even as a retired player, he stays involved with the team, attending an annual Packers alumni weekend.
"I talk to three, four guys (former teammates) at least once a week," he said.
Buchanon was the seventh overall pick in the first round of the draft. He noted that the seventh pick this year got a $15 million signing bonus. When asked how much he received to sign, he quickly replied, "I ain't telling you," which drew laughs from the crowd.
One fan asked him what was the coldest game that he ever played in. While Buchanon said it seemed like all the Lambeau Field games were cold, he said the worst was actually a late-season game in Cincinnati when he was with the Chargers at the end of his career.
Buchanon was asked about his injuries in his playing career.
"I had both knees done about five years ago, but I broke my leg twice," Buchanon replied. "They actually set my leg on the field in 1974."
Buchanon spoke warmly of his friendship with Bart Starr, who died earlier this year.
"He loved his players," he said. "He was genuine. He told you what you needed to hear on the field."
One fan asked him which quarterback he prefers, Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers.
"How do you ask that question? They are both great quarterbacks, spun from the same system," he replied.
Since he retired, Buchanon has stayed involved in the league, including working on an annual fundraiser during the Super Bowl to raise money to end hunger. He became a Realtor but also a pastor.
"Being an ordained minister, I understand what life is all about," he said. "I understand the Word, and I had to go out and teach the Word."
Lambeau Field Live continues Friday with special guest John Brockington, a fullback who played for the Packers from 1971 until 1977. Brockington will be at the exhibit every day this weekend.