Presbyterian Christian School’s C.J. Buckhalter and Cameron Shaw didn’t know each other a few months ago. C.J. was entering the summer before his sophomore year on the Bobcats’ football team, while Shaw was making the move from Fort Worth, Texas, to Hattiesburg.
There was a connection between the families, however. C.J.’s dad, Chris Buckhalter, and Cameron’s dad, Harold Shaw, played together at Southern Miss in the mid-1990s. Both played running back, too.
“When I first came (to Southern Miss) and heard about Buck, I was a little nervous,” Harold said. “He wasn’t threatened by me and he helped the other running backs out. Actually, everybody got along well. We were always trying to be the best running back group.”
Harold was living in Rhode Island after a professional football career while Cameron grew up in Texas. Harold, a Magee native, was moving back to Mississippi and his son wanted to join him.
Instead of having to fly across the country to see his son play, he’d finally never miss a single second of Cameron’s football life. The two moved to Hattiesburg where Harold would reconnect with his former Southern Miss teammate.
“It’s giving me a new motivation,” Cameron said. “He played in the NFL so he’s giving me tips because he’s already been there and I want to do the same thing. Now, I have somebody 24/7 giving me tips.”
In May, Harold called Chris to catch up. They were both back in the same town the two shared a lot of memories in more than 20 years ago.
Chris donned the black and gold from 1992-1995, while Harold played for the Golden Eagles from 1994-1997, so the two played two seasons with each other. Chris amassed 2,001 rushing yards and 17 scores during his time, and Harold rushed for 2,219 and 34 scores.
After professional stints, and other twists and turns life brings, the two grabbed a drink at a local restaurant when Chris found out Harold and his son were in Hattiesburg for good. They discussed life, family and, of course, where his son was going to play football.
“I thought he was down for the weekend,” Chris said. “When I got there he was like, ‘No, man I moved.’ That’s when he started talking about where his son was going to go to school, so I started telling him about what we’re doing (at PCS).”
Chris is the strength and conditioning coach at PCS, where his son is a rising star. The two reminisced about their playing days and talked about the possibility of their sons teaming up. Soon after that, Cameron joined the Bobcats for their offseason workouts in preparation for the 2019 season.
“He wanted to come (to Hattiesburg), so we thought it would be better if he stayed with me,” Harold said. “I could teach him how to be a man from now on.”
As a linebacker, Cameron has a nose for the ball. Since he plays on defense, it’s not the same nose for the ball his father has, but Harold is enjoying watching his son develop into a football player.
Both Chris and Harold admitted to leaving the coaching to the other coaches, especially since their sons play defense instead of their running back position. Cameron could see some carries this season, however.
“We can’t teach them running back stuff,” Harold said with a laugh.
“That’s their life,” Chris said. “My job is to help them, guide them and lead them so they can have the most success in the life they want to live. It isn’t about me.
“Given his position, we played offense and our boys are on the defensive side. I’m not a defensive tackle guy. I mean I see some things and I know some things that I could share, but I think it’ll be counterproductive with him having the people in his life teaching him. That side of the game, I try to leave it alone.”
As a freshman starter, C.J. took his lumps last year, but he’s come out of the Bobcats’ lousy 2018 season better and ready to improve.
“It was tough,” C.J. said of last season. “I didn’t know much of what to do. All I knew was every time I got hit, I had to get back up. The coaches were telling me what to do and I tried to work at it as much as I could.”
Chris has been part of the PCS program since 2015, so he’s seen it all. From a one-loss season in 2016 to a one-win season in 2018, Chris wouldn’t change a thing.
“It’s been amazing. For a long time, coaching has been all I’ve ever wanted to do. Due to a storied past and a lot of wrong decisions, I was just going down a path that didn’t allow for it. It’s been phenomenal. I mean there’s no other way I could describe it.”
Both Chris and Harold are happy to have their sons have the spotlight on the field now, and the two will get to play at least two years together before their varsity careers wrap up.
It’s pretty nice,” Cameron said. “I think we both want to be better than our fathers, so we’re going to work a little bit harder. I know I can trust him on the field and he can trust me, so it’s going to be nice.”