The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 61 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.
Starting all 16 games last season for Chicago for the second consecutive year, Lance Briggs became the 13th former Arizona player to play at least 10 years in the NFL.
“In football terms, I’m considered an old man, but it’s fine,” Briggs told the CBS-TV affiliate in Sacramento recently while conducting one of his youth camps there. “I am able to prepare for another football season.
“We’ll make a run for the Super Bowl and I’ll do it as long as I can. As long as I hold value in the NFL and they feel I am a player who can produce and compete, I’m gonna do it.”
Briggs has played 156 of a possible 160 games in the regular season for Chicago in his career. He has also played in all six postseason games for the Bears during his tenure, including Super Bowl XLI in 2007 against Indianapolis.
Despite all the years, the games, the ability to play through pain, Briggs said in the television interview that he feels “sharper” heading into his 11th season (the interviewer mistakenly said Briggs is heading into his 12th season).
“I feel better than I did five years ago,” Briggs said. “I understand things better than I did a year ago. As long as I compete at a high level, I’ll be able to take advantage. … all of us older guys will be able to take advantage of the knowledge we bring with us throughout the years.
“It goes by very fast. Sometimes you sit in that locker room and you kind of wonder, ‘Wow, what happened? What happened?’ A lot of those guys I remember in those lockers, they come in and they come out. The one common denominator is that No. 55 is still in there, and to me, I cherish each moment.”
A seven-time Pro Bowl player, Briggs earned three consecutive All-Pac-10 selections at Arizona from 2000 to 2002, becoming the fifth and last Wildcat to achieve the feat. The others are linebacker Ricky Hunley (1981-83), center Joe Tofflemire (1986-88), defensive end Tedy Bruschi (1993-95) and cornerback Chris McAlister (1996-98).
Bruschi is the longest tenured NFL player from Arizona, playing 13 seasons with New England from 1996-2008. McAlister lasted 11 seasons from 1999-2009, 10 of them with Baltimore. The NFL careers of Hunley (seven years) and Tofflemire (six) were cut short because of injuries.
Briggs has a history of staying strong and healthy, including his mental approach. He succeeded despite enduring Arizona’s lean years from 2000 to 2002 during the transition of Dick Tomey to John Mackovic.
During his career as a starter at Arizona, the Wildcats went 14-20. He was a senior captain of the 2002 team that finished 4-8 and lost seven of its last games with Mackovic as the head coach.
Late that season, Briggs led a revolt among Arizona players against Mackovic. They approached then-UA president Pete Likins about Mackovic’s verbal abuse toward the team. One player claimed Mackovic told him he was a disgrace to his family.
Although things got ugly late in his Arizona career, Briggs has remained supportive of the program and its players.
“My future is not here, but I want the younger guys to have a great football experience,” Briggs told the Arizona Daily Wildcat at the time of the player uprising.
Briggs has returned to Tucson often to work out at the UA and train with players, such as junior linebacker Jake Fischer. He communicates with the current Arizona coaching staff.
“The most important thing here really is the U of A,” Briggs said in the accompanying Arizona Athletics video. “No matter what happens afterward … I can be a Bear for 16 years … but I will always be a U of A Wildcat.”‘
Briggs is approaching that 16 years. As he journeys with his own television show in Chicago, a potential acting career on TV and his fascination with comic books, his path obviously will not take him away from his Arizona roots.
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The best No. 61 to wear the Arizona jersey, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino is offensive guard Ed Brown (1954-57). He played both on the offensive and defensive lines. The ex-Marine was the first black head coach at a Tucson school when he was hired to be football coach when Cholla opened in 1969. Brown, one of the classiest individuals to coach in Tucson, died last year at age 80 from leukemia.
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.