NIPPED IN BUDDE : Cut After 7 Seasons, Ex-USC Star Gets Shot With Raiders

Times Staff Writer

Maybe he was too good. At USC, where they'd long admired offensive linemen, Brad Budde seemed to have upgraded the position.

He was prematurely mature, the one everyone looked up to, already married to his high school sweetheart, a man with a plan and a future spread out before him like a treasure map.

Twelve of his teammates became No. 1 draft picks, including an astounding six interior offensive linemen--hey, they only play five at a time--but Coach John Robinson called Budde his most ambitious player.

And we're just getting started here.

Budde was a left guard, as had been his All-Pro father. His dad's team, the Kansas City Chiefs, took Brad with the 11th selection in the 1980 draft, making the Buddes the first father-son tandem to go in the first round.

For Brad, son of Ed, greatness lay waiting.

But greatness is tricky.

It waits still. For seven years, Brad settled for a solid, if unspectacular, career with the Chiefs. In his eighth, they cut him. He is trying out with the Raiders to see if there will be a ninth.

Maybe Budde was fully evolved, or overly so, as an undergraduate. Maybe 280 pounds was a huge offensive guard in 1980, but in 1987 he lost his job to 300 pounds' worth of Brian Jozwiak, himself a high first-round choice in the 1986 draft.

Where does it go? As Waylon Jennings said, the good Lord only knows.

"I tell you, I really don't know," Budde said softly.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the inconsistency of the organization. In my eight years, I had three different head coaches and five different offensive line coaches. Every coach wants their own type of player.

"I was making good money. They had pressure to play a first-round draft pick. He hadn't played hardly at all in preseason, and yet they gave my job to him. He ended up getting benched the first game and never playing after that.

"But even though it was difficult for me professionally, I wouldn't change things because it developed in me an inner strength that I have now. I think I'm a better man for it.

"When you're so successful and adversity comes, you really find out what kind of man you really are. I would be lying if I said I didn't struggle some of those years. But I was able to depend on God and my family for the strength to be ready."

For the rest of the USC line, it's been a more rewarding experience, even if that, in pro football terms, may entail several surgeries and other of life's less desirable things.

Remember the line in the '80 Rose Bowl, clearing those huge holes for Charles White in that fourth-quarter drive against Ohio State? Keith Van Horne, now a Chicago Bears starter at left tackle. Budde at left guard. Roy Foster, now with the Miami Dolphins, at right guard. Anthony Munoz of the Cincinnati Bengals at right tackle.

Munoz was just back from knee surgery, having been replaced by a freshman named Don Mosebar, now with the Raiders, and then, when Mosebar was hurt, by another named Bruce Matthews, now with the Houston Oilers. All six became No. 1 draft picks, four have been to the Pro Bowl and one--Munoz--has a chance at the Hall of Fame.

"I really think, for offensive linemen, there's not too many Anthony Munozes around," Budde said. He laughed and added: "He's the biggest Mexican you've ever seen in your life, and yet, he has tremendous flexibility, speed and quickness. And also, he's had the same coach for eight years.

"We're all still very close. The closest to me? Anthony is a real dear friend. He's taught me a lot of that inner strength.

"When I was at USC, he had three different knee surgeries, and yet he kept a belief that he was going to overcome his adversity. My adversity came a little later, when I was in the pros. He's been a dear friend to help me overcome it.

"I'm very proud of Anthony. I think a true friend finds happiness in other people's successes. I enjoy every time he's offensive lineman of the year or in the Pro Bowl. I feel I'm right there with him because I know what he's overcome."

Everyone has his own burden. Munoz had bad knees when he was young. Budde was written off when he was older.

And yet . . .

"When I look at the case of Anthony Munoz, you know, I still have that dream, being in the Pro Bowl, being in the Super Bowl," Budde said. "That's why I'm excited about being here. So I'm content. You know, I still feel I have time on my side for greatness."

The odds may be something else. Budde is listed as a right guard, but the No. 1 there is Brian Holloway, who has been switched there from left tackle. Budde is No. 2 and that puts him too close to the blade for comfort.

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