Celebrating the ghosts of Arizona football's past

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SAM RICHE and SAM RICHE | The Daily Wildcat Tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) of the New England Patriots speaks to reporters during the AFC Champions' Media Day session at Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Sam Riche/MCT)

The University of Arizona has produced electric NFL talents throughout its football program’s history. From Tedy Bruschi to Rob Gronkowski, NFL legends have been a staple of the Wildcat program. Take a look back at some of the best talents to ever come out of Wildcat country.

A three-time Super Bowl, four-time First Team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl champion, Rob Gronkowski may be the most notable name on the list. During his 2008 season with the Wildcats, Rob Gronkowski caught 47 passes for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Gronkowski, nicknamed Gronk, played nine years in the NFL, racking up some insane stats. Gronk had 521 receptions over 115 games with 7,861 receiving yards and averages 15.1 yards per reception during his tenure in the NFL, according to the NFL website. Gronkowski is destined for the Hall of Fame with the stats he accumulated as well as his impressive trophy collection. When he does make it to Canton, Ohio, he is sure to bring a part of Tucson with him.

A name people will recognize for his more recent triumphs is Nick Foles. He tore up defenses during his three-year stint with the Wildcats from the 2009-2011 seasons. During his three years, Foles passed for just over 10,000 yards and 67 touchdowns in addition to having a 138.1 quarterback rating. During his 2011 season, he passed for 4,334 yards, the most in the Pac-12 division.

Foles has continued his success during his time in the NFL. Appearing in 55 games, he has thrown over 11,000 yards and 69 touchdowns, according to the Pro Football Reference website. Foles will never be forgotten due to his stellar performances in both college and the NFL, but who could forget his role in one of the most iconic plays ever: The Philly Special? That play will always be remembered for its absurdity and the role it played in winning the Philadelphia Eagles the 2017 Super Bowl and winning Foles the 2017 Super Bowl MVP.

One of the greatest running backs in the history of Arizona’s program just recently left the team. Playing his last season in 2013, Ka’Deem Carey gained a plethora of impressive stats during his whole career with Arizona. His most impressive year came in 2012; he ranked No. 1 in rushing yards in the NCAA with 1,929 yards rushing. He also ranked first in touchdowns in 2012, finishing the year with 23. Over his career with Arizona, he racked up just over 4,200 yards rushing, 679 yards receiving and 52 total touchdowns. 

Carey was drafted in the fourth round in 2014 by the Chicago Bears and has played three seasons in the NFL. During this time, he played 37 games gaining 443 yards rushing, 131 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. In 2018, Carey joined the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. Through eight games this season, he has 422 yards on 75 carries and two touchdowns. Carey enjoyed a stellar career in Arizona; hopefully, he will be able to find his way back to the NFL.

A lesser-known player who had a great career in both college and the NFL is Lance Briggs. Briggs played for the Wildcats for three years, starting in 1999 and entering the draft in 2002. While he was with the Wildcats, he recorded 308 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 10 deflected passes and three interceptions. He was drafted in the third round by the Chicago Bears, where he played for his entire 12-year career. Through those 12 years, he played in 173 games racking up 1,177 combined tackles and 15 sacks. He deflected 84 passes and had 16 interceptions, 19 forced fumbles and five touchdowns. Briggs has recently been nominated for the class of 2020 football Hall of Fame. Should he be added, he would join Arizona and NFL legend Tedy Bruschi.

Arguably the best player to ever come out of the UA — and one of the best to ever play in the NFL — was Tedy Bruschi. While he played for the legendary Desert Swarm, he had 52 sacks, 74 tackles for a loss, was the unanimous All-American in his senior year, won the Fiesta Bowl in 1993 and was named the Fiesta Bowl MVP. He entered the NFL in 1996 after being drafted by the New England Patriots. Bruschi would continue to play for 13 years, winning three Super Bowls until he retired after 2008-2009 season. He also won the 2005 Associated Press Co-Comeback Player of the Year after suffering a stroke the year prior. During his time in the NFL, Bruschi had 30.5 sacks, 31 pass deflections, 12 interceptions and four touchdowns. Nobody will forget the name Tedy Bruschi anytime soon in Wildcat Country.


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