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Ricky Hunley, greatest of Arizona’s Linebacker U.

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FBCountdown

The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 89 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.

Arizona’s basketball team has that catchy nickname of “Point Guard U.” Once upon a time, the Arizona football team was known as “Linebacker U.”, not to the extent of Penn State but impressive nonetheless.

Although only one linebacker — Spencer Larsen in 2007 — has been selected as a first-team All-Pac-10/12 player in the last 10 seasons, that position still leads the Wildcats in the number of selections with 15. Safeties are the next with 10, followed by cornerbacks (nine), running backs (seven) and wide receivers (seven). See the chart accompanying this story for a full rundown.

The dean of the linebackers is Ricky Hunley, who was chosen to the first team in three consecutive seasons (1981-83) as a middle linebacker. Hunley and Lance Briggs (2000-02) are the only linebackers to earn first-team honors three consecutive seasons.

After Hunley’s run of three consecutive selections, his brother LaMonte Hunley earned the same honor in 1984. They started a run of eight selections of Arizona linebackers in a nine-year span. Byron Evans (1985 and 1986) and Chris Singleton (1988 and 1989) contributed to that stretch.

Sean Harris (1993 and 1994), Marcus Bell (1998), Briggs and Larsen are the others.

For those curious, linebacker Antonio Pierce was an honorable-mention selection in 2000.

Ricky Hunley remains the leading tackler in Arizona history with 566. He is atop the record book in unassisted tackles (323) and assisted tackles (243). He also had 12 interceptions in his career, which leads all Wildcat linebackers. He had seven interceptions in 1983.

Ricky Hunley remains active with his support of the Wildcats (Original Retro Brand photo)

Ricky Hunley remains active with his support of the Wildcats (Original Retro Brand photo)

Hunley, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998, is the highest drafted Wildcat in the program’s history. Cincinnati drafted him as the No. 7 selection in the 1984 NFL draft.

Now a linebackers coach with the Oakland Raiders, Hunley is effective providing motivation and direction for his players (see the accompanying YouTube video when he was with the UFL).

“As a player, I always realized that if I was going to succeed there were two things that I had to do,” Hunley said in an interview with Original Retro Brand, of which he is a business partner. “Number one was that I was going to have to treat my body like a business. That is, I had to be in the best shape of my life mentally and physically all year round. In the pros, your body is how you make your money, and you better take care of it.

“Number two was that it also meant listening and doing things the coach’s way. I’ve seen too many players squander their once in a lifetime opportunity of playing and being successful in the NFL, by wanting to do things their own way, and in the business of professional sports, it’s coach’s way or the highway. Have that single purpose and focus and you can set yourself up for life. Work hard. You don’t always need to be the best, but be the best at working the hardest.”

Hunley, the best No. 89 to wear the Arizona uniform, has his jersey number retired.

*****

Quick notes about the following chart:

— Defensive players account for 47 of the UA’s 83 selections. Defensive backs (safeties and cornerbacks) have 19 of those selections. Ten safeties have been chosen but none since 1995.

— No quarterbacks have yet to be selected to the first team. Matt Scott was a second-team selection last year. Tom Tunnicliffe (1983), Keith Smith (1998) and Willie Tuitama (2008) were also second-team selections.

Nick Folk earned first-team status as a punter in 2007, although he is a place-kicker in the NFL. He played both positions for the Wildcats.

— The longest position drought other than quarterback is center. Joe Tofflemire, the UA’s only center to be selected a first-team All-Pac-10/12 player, completed three consecutive selections in 1988.

ARIZONA ALL-PAC-10/12 PLAYERS BY POSITION
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WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.

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