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Family ties: Chaparral's Davondre Bucannon, Grady Hickey follow advice of football elders

By Richard Obert Arizona Republic, 09/23/21, 10:57AM MST


They come from football families, following advice and laying their own path at Scottsdale Chaparral High School.

Senior cornerback Davondre Bucannon is the brother of former Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety/linebacker Deone Bucannon.

"He comes to all my games," Davondre said. "He just tells me to go show off on the field."

He'll try to do that Friday night when Chaparral (2-1) plays host to rival Scottsdale Saguaro (2-0) in The Arizona Republic's Game of the Week.

Senior receiver/running back Grady Hickey is the nephew of former Phoenix St. Mary's star athlete and University of Notre Dame kicker Jim Sanson.

Sanson did everything for St. Mary's in the mid-1990s, making All-Arizona at defensive back, catching 10 passes in the state championship game and kicking a 58-yard field goal in a game, before moving on to Notre Dame, where as a true freshman in 1996 he kicked a last-second 39-yard field goal to beat Texas in Austin.

Hickey, like Sanson, can impact a game in multiple ways, except for kicking. He's become quarterback Brayten Silbor's big-play receiver. But he can also get in the backfield and make plays running ball.

Sanson, who lives in California, will be at Friday's game at Chaparral.

"He's been like a father figure to me," Hickey said about his uncle. "He just told me to work hard and you'll see results."

Hickey's grandfather, Jim Sanson Sr., a former college football coach, who gave both Jim and Grady his toughness, also has been like a father figure.

He's been very involved, along with his wife, in the upbringing of Grady and his brother and sister, helping his daughter Kim. Jim Sanson Sr., is proud of both Grady and his other grandson, Jack Spiekerman, who is a senior safety at Phoenix Arcadia.

Both players are team captains.

Jim Sr., became the male figure in Grady's life growing up.

Football runs on Grady's mom's side, too. She has a brother who played football at Colorado State.

Some of Grady's traits come from his grandfather, 72, who, after being told by his orthopedic doctor to stop running, ran his first marathon a year later.

"Grady is his own man," said Jim Sr., who played at UTEP and Phoenix College and coached at Scottsdale Community College. "He had to grow up faster, I’m sure faster than he wanted to. He has shined like all the kids in that family."

Chaparral is happy to see Hickey on the field to make plays this year.

"Grady has been doing a little bit of everything for us," coach Brent Barnes said. "We expect him to continue to do that."

9/21/2021 Scottsdale, AZ, Chaparral High School football practice, Davondre Bucannon is ready for game of the week against Saguaro,By:Zac BonDurant/Special to the Republic

The key has been contributions from others, especially in last week's 63-28 win at Gilbert Higley.

Silbor threw five touchdown passes to four different receivers.

Hickey didn't have a touchdown catch but he ran for score, averaging more than 10 yards on four carries, while catching seven passes for 77 yards.

His breakout game was the season opener, a 33-21 loss to Queen Creek, during which he had 12 catches for 162 yards and a TD.

When Jamarei Ashby-Phan was out with an injury against Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Hickey moved to tailback and ran for 107 yards and two TDs on 15 carries in a 27-0 win.

In the Higley game, Hickey caught three passes for 113 yards and two scores.

Barnes said the nickname for Hickey is "Grady McCaffrey," after Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who makes plays with his legs and hands.

"He has a similar look and similar style in how he plays," Barnes said. "He can play in the backfield. He can play out wide. He can catch it vertically. He's just so versatile and it allows us to use him in different ways."

Bucannon has a physical presence on the field the way his big brother does. He moved from California to Scottsdale before his freshman year.

"He's a physical, lengthy corner," Barnes said. "He's pushing 6 foot 2 almost. He's able to be physical. He's got great ball skills when the ball is in the air to play the ball. He's been an anchor for us in the secondary."

Davondre says there is no pressure to be like Deone.

"Just have fun," Davondre said.

Bucannon calls this week extra exciting with friends who play at Saguaro.

"It's friendly trash talk," Bucannon said.

His brother believes he is ahead of him at the same age on the football field.

"He’s an absolute beast," Deone Bucannon said. "Light years past what I was at at that age physically and mentally.

"Best advice would be like I always tell him to have fun. He has all the talent in the world. Make your presence known every time you touch the field."

Hickey, a running back his entire football career until this year when he was moved to wide receiver, thought last year would be his year, but he got hurt in the first game against Brophy Prep.

"I've just been working hard in the offseason and seeing results," Hickey said.

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.

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