The man with the stylish clothes and gait of a former athlete glides across the Qualcomm Stadium turf with grace.
He walks like someone with a purpose, and dang right, Willie Buchanon has one.
Buchanon is part of the NFL’s fashion police, noting which players’ uniforms don’t conform to the league’s standards.
His reports head to the league office, where the Park Avenue suits dock wages for those breaking the dress code.
But before descending on someone with his pant legs not covering his knees — a no-no — Buchanon’s stride is interrupted.
“O’side!” comes the throaty yell from a fan, oblivious to the game action.
“O’side” comes the response from Buchanon, as well as a smile, which rivals the stadium lights.
“I go to all the Oceanside High games,’’ said Buchanon, a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. “Unless I’m out of town.’’
Buchanon is on the road this week, trading his NFL detective work for a bratwurst, Old Style and stories that improve with age.
It’s Packers alumni weekend and Buchanon would rather see Oceanside lose to El Camino than miss his annual Green Bay trip.
It’s a special trek for a special guy, a player who was a standout cornerback for four local teams — Oceanside, MiraCosta College, San Diego State and the Chargers.
But he made his mark with the Packers after being a 1972 first-round pick. One need not say “cheese” for Buchanon to grin about the good ol’ days.
So when the calendar reveals alumni weekend, not even Buchanon’s beloved Pirates keep him around.
“It’s the best,’’ said Buchanon, who played in Green Bay for six seasons. “You get to laugh and see all those Green Bay Packers. From Bart Starr all the way down. They all come back because they are all part of the Packers legacy.’’
That includes Buchanon, a member of the team’s Hall of Fame.
He’s Oceanside to the core, but if you cut him, Buchanon, 63, would bleed some green and gold.
“The legacy is so strong there that it is just ridiculous,’’ said Buchanon, a long-time North County Realtor.
“The city and team just open their arms to these guys, and a lot of them are just regular guys. But once a Packer, always a Packer.’’
There are dinners, luncheons, a tailgate bash, halftime salutes and a golf tournament.
“You can’t miss Packers weekend,’’ he said. “We tell a bunch of lies and you get to see all your old teammates.’’
Hanging with Buchanon never gets stale.
He knows the prep, college and pro game.
He knows when someone is blowing smoke and when someone is being straight. He doesn’t take gruff, but if there’s someone with a bigger heart, I’d like to see it.
Then there’s Buchanon’s sense of humor.
Buchanon helped steal the show at last year’s festivities, with Ezra Johnson, among the best pass-rushers in Packers history, being honored.
Dedicated Green Bay fans know Johnson for getting caught eating a hot dog during a preseason game. Then-coach Starr blew a gasket and fined Johnson $1,000, with the defensive line coach quitting in the fall out.
So right before Johnson’s time in the spotlight, Buchanon sprung into action.
“I brought him a bratwurst down to the sideline and he ate half of it,’’ Buchanon said. “Then when they introduced him at halftime he held up the other half to the crowd and took another bite out of it.’’
The uproar was predictable although we’re not sure Starr was smiling.
But if he was close to Buchanon, how couldn’t he?
Contact staff writer Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly.