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McAlister, Cason top Arizona Wildcats CBs in Pac-10/12 years

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100 DAYS UNTIL KICKOFF 2013
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The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 77 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.

All-American cornerback Chris McAlister had two interceptions and a punt return for a touchdown that was called back because of a penalty in Arizona's significant 23-20 win over Nebraska in the 1998 Holiday Bowl

All-American cornerback Chris McAlister had two interceptions and a punt return for a touchdown that was called back because of a penalty in Arizona’s significant 23-20 win over Nebraska in the 1998 Holiday Bowl

Much like their wide receiver counterparts, picking two cornerbacks is a tough choice for this site’s Arizona All-Time Pac-10/12 Team since the Wildcats joined the conference in 1978.

With tough choices comes difficult omissions. Based on the number of Pac-10 honors selections over the course of a four-year career, Chris McAlister and Antoine Cason are the top cornerbacks. Darryll Lewis, a Jim Thorpe Award winner and consensus All-American in 1990, is the odd man out. Lewis was also the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 1990.

McAlister is one of only five Arizona three-time All-Pac-10/12 selections. He was also a Jim Thorpe Award finalist and unanimous All-American selection in 1998.

Cason, like Lewis, was a Jim Thorpe Award winner, but he surpassed Lewis in achievements through the course of a career. Cason was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection while Lewis won the honor once. Both were selected to the second team and Cason was also an honorable-mention selection as a freshman.

Cason was a consensus All-American in 1997. He and McAlister were first-round selections in the NFL. Cason signed a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals in March after spending his first five seasons in the NFL with San Diego.

ARIZONA’S TOP PLAYERS AT EACH POSITION (RANKED IN ORDER)

WIDE RECEIVERS
Mike Thomas (05-08)
Bobby Wade (99-02)
Dennis Northcutt (96-99)
Juron Criner (08-11)
Derek Hill (85-88)

CORNERBACKS
Chris McAlister (95-98)
Antoine Cason (04-07)
Darryll Lewis (87-90)
Darrell Brooks (02-05)
Randy Robbins (80-83)

Antoine Cason holds the UA record with four returns for a touchdown in 1997

Antoine Cason holds the UA record with four returns for a touchdown in 1997

Tough call, indeed, but that’s what happens when a unit such as this gets narrowed to two.

Former Pac-10 first-team selections at cornerback Randy Robbins, Keshon Johnson and Darrell Brooks also deserve mention. Michael Jolivette, Devin Ross, Trevin Wade and Gordon “Crunch” Bunch were also multiple second-team and honorable-mention selections.

Notable career achievements of Cason and McAlister at Arizona:

— Cason holds the record of four touchdowns by returns in a season in 2007 (two by punt return and two following an interception). McAlister is next with three in 1998 (only the seventh NCAA player to return a punt, kickoff and interception for a touchdown in the same season).

ALLARIZONADEFENSE

— Cason holds the record for career interception return yards with 349 (15 returns from 2004-07).

— McAlister ranks third with 18 interceptions in his career, including two in the UA’s win over Nebraska in the 1998 Holiday Bowl. Cason is next with 15. Chuck Cecil, a safety, leads the UA with 21 and Jackie Wallace, a cornerback during the early WAC days, is second with 19.

— McAlister had two 100-yard kickoff returns for a touchdown against UCLA in 1996 and Hawaii in 1998.

* * * * *

The best No. 77 to wear the Arizona uniform? That honors goes to one of the best defensive lineman to ever play for the UA — the late Mike Dawson, a Tucson High School graduate. Eben Britton is another standout No. 77. Dawson, a defensive tackle, helped Tucson High win state football titles in 1970 and 1971, earning Parade All-American honors. He and Tucson High teammate Marvin Lewis, a linebacker, were the first Parade All-American football players from Tucson. Dawson starred at Arizona from 1973-75, helping the Wildcats post the best three-year record in school history – 26-7. He was a second-team All-American and Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He was selected to this site’s All-WAC team from when Arizona was part of the conference (1962-77). He was a first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976. He played seven seasons with the Cardinals and one each with Detroit and Kansas City. He returned to Tucson after retiring from the NFL after the 1984 season. He was involved in a landscaping business and was an assistant high school football coach when he passed away in 2008.

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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