Former Arizona receiver Jay Dobyns, the No. 1 player on offense in our Top Arizona Football Badass ranking, kicks off a series of a stories we will run involving former Wildcats. These players, favorites for Arizona fans, will provide their memories of another former Arizona player they admired the most before or after their careers. They will explain why that player motivated them toward greatness in their own Wildcat career. Look for these stories at AllSportsTucson.com as the 2017 season approaches.
In 1972, my first year living in Tucson, Arizona football had a 4-7 record. Jim Young was hired as the head coach, and in 1973, his first season, he led a resurrection of the program doubling Arizona’s wins to eight. I was hooked.
The roster was loaded with players that would become Wildcat legends: Bruce Hill, “T” Bell, Jim Upchurch, Willie Hamilton … and Scott Piper.
I was 13 years old in the summer of 1974. Tucson was full of anticipation. Was the turnaround real or a fluke? A preseason “Meet the Wildcats” day was held at Randolph Park. I took the SunTran from Speedway and Camino Seco, got off at Alvernon and walked the rest of the way. All I had was pocket change for the bus fare home and a ball point pen.
Three people were there who would change my life. Arizona’s future head coach Larry Smith was an assistant under Young. So was Willie Peete, who later helped me become a Wildcat myself. Marc Lunsford was a quarterback on that team and would ultimately be my position coach.
That Saturday afternoon I was at the park to get autographs, but I was too shy to ask. I hung around the edge of the barbeque, alone. A player with shaggy blonde hair and a mustache like Burt Reynolds wearing jersey No. 86 approached.
“You want me to sign?” he said.
I don’t recall even having the courage to speak. I nodded “Yes.” I didn’t have a piece of paper or a ball.
Scott Piper took the pen out of my hand.
“Turn around,” he said.
He signed his name on the back of my t-shirt. From that moment forward, he had a fan for life; a kind act extended to an insecure boy was all it took. I wore that shirt to school and to play touch football until the ink was washed out in the laundry and it turned to shreds.
Scott Piper caught 46 passes that year and I cheered for every one. The Cats went 9-2, no fluke. A year later as senior in 1975, he caught 45 more, led the team in receiving yards and scored seven touchdowns. I cheered even louder. Arizona went 9-2 again. The “fluke” talk was history.
In 1976, Scott Piper was drafted in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills. He wore No. 82.
Five years later, I arrived on campus and wanted to wear No. 86, like my childhood Wildcat idol. That jersey had already been claimed. I asked for No. 82.
I just wanted to be Scott Piper.
EDITOR NOTE: Dobyns shared the story with Piper before we published this post. Piper, originally from Lakewood, Colo., who now lives in the Denver suburb of Arvada, e-mailed Dobyns this response: “I am touched and honored. You have blessed me more than perhaps you will ever know. Thank you. This was kind and beautiful.” Piper owns a boot company called Twisted X Boots and Equibrand and also has played an actor in two low-budget films called “2nd Greatest” and “A High School Story”. …. Dobyns is a retired federal agent and author of two books now, one that is due to be released at the end of this month — “Catching Hell” — that documents his life when he was a federal agent.
UPDATE: Piper then e-mailed me this message last night I will share with you here:
I am certainly humbled and honored that anyone would remember my days as a Wildcat, especially after 40+ years, and that it would be someone like Jay Dobyns and yourself … well that’s even more special.
As Jay mentioned in the article, I left Arizona for the Buffalo Bills. I played through the pre-season and was sent to the Atlanta Falcons where I spent the 76 season and part of the 77 season as a back up to John Gilliam. I suffered a couple shoulder separations and was released when I came off of injured status. I sat out ’78 ( couldn’t pass a physical on the shoulder ) and believed my career over. I moved back to my hometown outside of Denver. As fate may have it (kind of a long story, but a good one), I signed with the Denver Broncos for the ’79 and ’80 seasons. Unfortunately, during pre-season, I suffered a career ending ACL/MCL injury which required total reconstruction.
In 1980, I began working in the oil Industry here in the Rocky Mountains. When the oilfield crashed in the mid 80’s I began looking for other opportunities. In 1989, I joined the Tony Lama Boot Company, and within a few years was helping design some of the product we produced. In 2005, I joined with a couple friends to help launch the Twisted X Boot Company. I represent Twisted X in the Rocky Mountain states and help design a lot of our western and casual product.
For 25 years, I have also acted with a local Christian theater company. In 2015, Kingdom Sight Studios came to Golden, Colo., to film a true story that had taken place in that community. Again, kind of a long story (but again a good one), they somehow got my name and called me to audition. I ended up being cast as one of the four main characters in this film. The film is called “2nd Greatest” (I play a police officer), and they are still looking for opportunities for a release. The same film company asked me to play a smaller role in their next film called “A High School Story”. I play a football coach .. Go figure!
Anyway, I have been married to my wife, Julie, for 34 years. We have 3 children and 3 grand children. We are Blessed!
We own horses (I am in the cowboy business after all ), and try to get up the mountain to ski when we can (been a skier since 8 years old) and play golf as often as possible. Between work and family I stay pretty busy, consequently, the years since playing for the U of A and part of the Wildcats has flown by … 41 years … amazing!
Again, Javier, thanks for even remembering an old Wildcat like me. My years there are some of my very fondest memories. I miss those days, but am so grateful that I became part of the Wildcat family and in some small way had an influence on a young man’s life. Like I said … I Am Blessed!
Scotty P #86
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.