The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 24 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.
A new horison awaits as the sun sets in Africa! On my way to the USA
— Gerhard de Beer (@Tarzan_Football) July 28, 2013
Arizona once had a Bruschi play on the defensive line, and that literally hit the spot. Now, the Wildcats have De Beer playing there.
Gerhard De Beer is a 6-foot-7-inch and 250-pound freshman non-scholarship player from South Africa who has the UA coaches “tickled to death to have him,” Rich Rodriguez told the media after Monday’s practice.
The Wildcat coaches feel that way because of De Beer’s peculiar background and raw potential, not because he is a football talent yet like Tedy Bruschi showed in his Hall of Fame career from 1992-95. De Beer is a freshman attending the UA on a track and field scholarship as a world-class discus thrower.
“What a great kid,” Rodriguez said after trying to roll his R’s to pronounce De Beer’s first name. “He’s never played football. He played rugby, a big physical guy. I asked him if he ever played football. He said no but he saw a game on TV.”
De Beer, who hails from Pretoria, South Africa, is a physical specimen who captured the South Africa Sub-Youth, Youth, Junior and Under 23 Championships discus title in April with the best throw of 58.4 meters (or 191.6 feet).
He is trying to find his niche in football because of his rugby background.
“He also saw a (video) clip on pass rushing,” Rodriguez said. “So he knew what a swim move was (swim motion with his right arm extended and swooping down). And then he asked, ‘What’s this?’ (fist-up motion). That’s a rip. He’s got those two terminologies down for a defensive end.”
Don’t expect De Beer to be a household name soon with the Wildcats, although he has a catchy name. He may be physically gifted, but he lacks the football skills necessary to impact an FBS program at this time. De Beer can find inspiration in others who have reached the NFL despite lacking a football background.
Chief among those players is aspiring rookie San Francisco defensive end Lawrence Okoye, whose background resembles that of De Beer. Okoye, signed by the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in April, is the British record-holder in the discus and former junior rugby union standout. He is 6-foot-6 and 304 pounds but can run the 40 in 4.78 seconds.
Former Florida State right tackle Menelik Watson, born and raised playing basketball in Manchester, England, was on a hoops scholarship at Marist before transferring to a junior college in California to play football for the first time. At 6-6 and 320 pounds and athletic, Watson became highly recruited in football. After only one year at Florida State, he emerged as a second-round draft pick in April by the Oakland Raiders.
Arizona fans recall the odyssey of Fendi Onobun, who attended the UA for four years on a basketball scholarship before transferring to Houston in 2009 to play tight end one season with the Cougars’ football team (coached by Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin at the time).
Onubun, with good size (6-6, 260), soft hands and athleticism, has bounced around the NFL as a tight end since the St. Louis Rams drafted him in the sixth round in 2010. He caught two passes for 15 yards with the Rams in 2010 before being waived at the start of the 2011 season. He has since played on the practice squads with Seattle, Washington, Jacksonville and Buffalo. Chicago signed Onobun in January to a reserve/future contract and he is showing promise.
Judging from Rodriguez’s upbeat conversation about De Beer with reporters Monday night, De Beer may have a promising future because of his size and athleticism.
“Everything is raw,” Rodriguez said. “We showed him how to put on equipment. I told him we’d be patient with him. And then yesterday he said he can punt the ball 70 yards as well from his rugby (background).
“So we had him punt a little bit after practice. He did punt one 70 yards so he could be the biggest punter in the country. We’ll see what Gerhard can do but we’re tickled to death to have him.”
De Beer has the personality and work ethic to become a successful two-sport athlete at Arizona.
On his Twitter page — with the name @Tarzan_Football — he posted this upon starting fall camp with the Wildcats on Saturday:
“Football camp tomorrow from Aug 3rd!! Ready or not, here comes the BOOM!!!”
* * * * *
The best Arizona player to wear No. 24, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino, is running back Bobby Lee Thompson (1960-61). He teamed with Joe Hernandez to form the “Touchdown Twins.” He still holds the school record for yards per attempt — 7.6 for his career.
* * * * *
Last year, this site and TucsonCitizen.com ran a Top 50 Games in the history of Arizona football series. I will relive that list here with less than 50 days to kickoff and add one game to it: Arizona’s improbable 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl last December, which landed as No. 38 on the list. Note, after clicking on the link, you will notice last year’s ranking. The list on this page is the current ranking.
No. 24: UA shuts out ASU, Kush during dominating run for Sun Devils coach
No. 25: Arizona’s defense and Doug Pfaff’s last-second FG enough to upset sixth-ranked Oklahoma
No. 26: UA upsets ASU from Fiesta Bowl consideration in program’s best stretch
No. 27: Trung Canidate rushes for record 288 yards and three long TDs in ’98 shootout against ASU
No. 28: UA dominates No. 3 SMU, highest ranked non-conference foe to lose to Cats
No. 29: Arizona stuns second-ranked Oregon in most significant victory in Mike Stoops era
No. 30: Arizona’s win on last-second FG over ASU ends Frank Kush’s dominance in the series
No. 31: Arizona reaches its zenith under Mike Stoops with victory over Brigham Young in Las Vegas Bowl
No. 32: Arizona owed Cal a couple, knock Bears out of BCS title, Rose Bowl run
No. 33: Arizona’s 10-9 loss at Oregon in 1994, derailing its Rose Bowl hopes, still hurts
No. 34: ASU ripe for picking in banana uniforms for “The Streak” to reach eight
No. 35: Arizona tries risky fake PAT to beat California but loses in epic 4 overtime game
No. 36: Veal to Hill “Hail Mary” pass highlights “The Streak” reaching seven games against ASU
No. 37: USC outlasts Arizona 48-41 in one of most wild games played in Tucson
No. 38: Arizona Wildcats’ comeback against Nevada No. 38 in Top 50 games list
No. 39: Arizona shows signs of life under Mike Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA
No. 40: Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns
No. 41: Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time
No. 42: Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU
No. 43: Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA
No. 44: Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics
No. 45: Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally
No. 46: Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason
No. 47: “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish
No. 48: Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech
No. 49: Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State
No. 50: Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal
Dropped out: Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians
* * * * *
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.