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Years at UA: 1991-95. Pos.: Offensive lineman
Ott, who was born in Munich, Germany, and played high school football in Houston, was a five-year player at Arizona who concluded his UA career in 1995. By the time his career ended, Ott evolved into one of Dick Tomey’s most reliable offensive linemen. He was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection that year. The following story told by Ott shows his versatility, especially in a time of great need by Tomey against ASU in 1995 in Tempe.
“My favorite ASU memory is my last game as a football player (in 1995). I can’t think of leaving the game in a better way.
Even though everybody knows me as a center, I had been starting at left tackle the last four games before ASU. With two weeks to practice for ASU, I told our O-line coach (Charlie Dickey): ‘This is my last game. I’m not taking any reps at center. I’m simply going to concentrate on left tackle this week.’ Well, Murphy’s Law seems to love scum.
First play of the game I’m starting at left tackle. As we’re huddling for the second play, Ian (McCutcheon) the backup tackle came running in screaming ‘Mani get at center!’ Now I’m fully taped up to play tackle and couldn’t grip a ball to save my life, but on that first play, our center Wayne (Wyatt) broke a finger on his snapping hand. Second play of the game I’m at center; So much for only playing left tackle.
As the game goes on, our right guard is feeling bad. Dave (Watson) is throwing up on the sidelines and just isn’t there. Apparently his mom’s Thanksgiving turkey the day before isn’t sitting well. Second quarter, Wayne’s got his snapping hand all taped up and is ready to get back in the game, but instead of putting me back at left tackle, Charlie figures, ‘Mani, take over at right guard for Dave’. I end up playing most of the game at right guard, but that doesn’t stop my shuffle.
We have a power package where we put our 360-pound left guard Frank (Middleton) into the back field as a full back, in that package we bring in 330-pound (Tevete Usumali’i) at guard, the only problem (Usumali’i) only knew how to play right guard, so off I go to play left guard in the power package.
So I’ve now played four of the five O-Line positions. What else could go wrong? In the fourth, quarter our right tackle Willie (Walker) is cramping up, how do we solve this issue? Easy. Bring (Usumali’i) in at right guard and move me over to right tackle.
I won the team’s Bronko Nagursky award the year before for playing all five offensive line positions in practice and even played all five in a blowout game, but never figured I would have to play all five positions out of necessity, much less in the best game of my career.
“I can’t think of a better way to end it (with a) 31-28 (win in) the 1995 game. I was playing some real good football at the end of 1995, made all-Pac-10 honorable mention, but I left it all out there! I wish every Wildcat could be so lucky.”
— Mani Ott