Where are they now?
The University of Arizona had legendary teams in the 1980s and 1990s. The Wildcats glory era started with a Fiesta Bowl appearance in 1979, continued with three bowl appearances in the ‘80s and six bowl appearances in the ‘90s. The ‘Cats went 5-4-1 during that span and were led by incredible defenses, highlighted by Dick Tomey’s Desert Swarm in 1992. Several of the biggest names in that era went on to have solid NFL careers, both on the field and as coaches. Those players include: Ricky Hunley, Chuck Cecil, Tedy Bruschi, Lance Briggs and Ortege Jenkins.
Hunley, linebacker, played for the ‘Cats from 1980–1983. He was a consensus All-American in ‘82 and ‘83, set the school record for tackles with 566, was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and was named to First-Team All-Pac-10 three times. Hunley was the seventh overall draft pick in 1984 by the Cincinnati Bengals but forced his way out and ultimately ended up with the Denver Broncos and remains the highest draft pick in Arizona football history, third overall in the ‘84 draft.
He went on to play for the Phoenix Cardinals and Los Angeles Raiders, before being elected as the NFL executive vice president.
Hunley began his coaching career with USC, before moving to the University of Missouri and wrapping up his collegiate tour with Florida. Transitioning to the NFL in 2002 with the NFL Minority Fellowship Coaching Program, Hunley started as a defensive line coach for the Redskins, before moving to Cincinnati to coach under Marvin Lewis.
He also held a position on the Black Coaches Association board of directors. He is currently working as an account executive at Outfront Media in the Los Angeles area, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Chuck Cecil was one of the best defenders in Arizona history. He walked on as a freshman but graduated as the consensus Pac-10 and All-American Defensive Player of the Year in 1987. He holds the school record for interceptions in a career, with 21, as well as the school record for interceptions in a game against Stanford, with four.
He is best known for his interception returned 100-yards for a touchdown to seal the win against ASU in 1986.
Off the field, Cecil was a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic selection and culminated his education as a recipient of the NCAA VI Award, one of the nation’s top scholar-athlete accolades. He was also named Arizona’s male winner of the Pac-10 Conference Medal, according to Arizona Athletics.
Cecil was drafted 89th overall by the Packers in 1988. Possibly the hardest hitter in NFL history, Cecil played seven seasons before having to retire due to concussions. He was featured in an issue of Sports Illustrated, which raised questions as to whether Cecil was actually too vicious for the NFL. He was hired in 2001 by the Tennessee Titans and head coach Jeff Fischer as a defensive assistant and quality-control coach.
He coached various position groups before being named defensive coordinator of the Titans in 2009. That position lasted until Fischer was fired by the Titans, but Cecil followed Fischer to St. Louis, and then to Los Angeles as the Rams Secondary Coach.
He remained in that position for five seasons. Cecil was hired by current UA head coach Rich Rodriguez this past summer as the director of player development, a non-coaching position.
Tedy Bruschi is arguably the best linebacker to ever play at Arizona if you account for pro success as well. He was part of the team that created the most famous moniker for a college defensive unit in history, the Desert Swarm.
The start of his career was riddled with injuries, but after red-shirting his freshman year and transitioning to the defensive line from outside linebacker, he was named to First-Team All-Pac-10, and was a Second-Team All-American selection.
He finished his career as a two-time All-American, three-time member of the All-Pac-10 Team and tied the NCAA Division I record for sacks, with 52. He also won the Morris Trophy, which is awarded to the Pac-10’s best defensive lineman.
Brushi was drafted by the Patriots with the 86th overall pick. He spent his entire career in New England, winning three Super Bowls, being selected to the 2004 Pro Bowl and being named Second-Team All-Pro twice. In 2005, Bruschi announced he would sit out the season due to a stroke he suffered, but he ended up playing in nine games.
Bruschi retired from the NFL in 2009 and joined ESPN as an analyst, where he could be seen singing Bear Down on air. He ran the Boston Marathon in 2012 and 2014. Bruschi reveres his time at Arizona and New England and points to Dick Tomey and Bill Belichick as men who helped mold who he is today.
Lance Briggs played for the Wildcats from 1999-2002. He was named to the All-Pac-10 First Team in 2001 and 2002. He finished his career with 308 tackles and 36 tackles for losses, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions and five fumbles.
Briggs was drafted by the Bears with the 68th overall pick. He played all 12 seasons of his NFL career with the Bears, finishing with 1,175 tackles, 16 interceptions and 15 career sacks before retiring in 2015. Briggs played in seven consecutive Pro Bowls, was named First-Team All-Pro in 2005 and Second-Team All-Pro twice.
Briggs revealed in March that he suffers from symptoms similar to CTE. There is no way of testing whether someone who is alive has CTE, but Briggs has made it his mission to bring awareness to the dangers of playing football and the severity of head injuries.
“CTE affects guys in a different way, and you start seeing it even in the practice of football,” Briggs said in the video outside of Soldier Field to Sports Illustrated. “You get worried. I get concerned for myself. And even though I’ve never had any suicidal thoughts or anything like that, for it to happen to some great men, and great football players, I know that I can’t separate myself from that crowd.”
Ortege Jenkins is remembered in Tucson for one of the most spectacular plays in an Arizona uniform. He hurdled three Washington Husky defenders on the goal line with the clock showing zeros to take the lead and win the game. That play is known as the Leap by the Lake.
Jenkins played at the UA from 1997 to 2000. He also played basketball in 1997. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 as an undrafted free agent, but he was subsequently cut. He is currently the owner and operator of 1 Body Strength and Conditioning Gym in Long Beach, California. It has a five-star rating on Yelp.
“Over the past four years, I have been dedicated to independent personal training, working with a variety of clients ranging from everyday working women and men, children, to some of the top-level professional NBA athletes, which include Jason Terry, Houston Rockets; Mason Plummlee, Portland Trial Blazers; Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics; Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves; and Miles Plummlee, Milwalkee Bucks,” Ortege Jenkins said via his Linkedin profile.
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