Chuck Cecil is back at Arizona.
The former star safety, who went from walk-on to consensus All-American to member of the College Football Hall of Fame, has been hired as a senior defensive analyst and the program’s Director of Player Personnel, the school announced Friday.
Cecil replaces Matt Dudek, who left this week to take a position at Michigan.
What does the Director of Player Personnel do? In Dudek’s bio, it said he “assists the coaching staff with roster management, including coordination of recruiting efforts, transfer students and walk-ons. He is the NFL Liaison for the program and also works closely with the marketing and compliance offices for matters related to the football program.”
It’s not an on-field position for Cecil, who put in extensive time as an NFL assistant under head coach Jeff Fisher, but it’s a great way to bring a familiar, experienced, passionate former Wildcat into Rich Rodriguez’s program. Given Cecil’s NFL background, this isn’t a case of hiring a Wildcat just for the sake of hiring a Wildcat.
“Chuck will be an outstanding addition to our staff,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
“His playing career both collegiately and professionally speaks for itself, and he’s been a very successful professional coach. I’m excited to utilize his experience and connections as a former Wildcat to fill a variety of key roles within our program.”
Cecil played at Arizona from 1984 to 1987, first under coach Larry Smith and playing his senior season under Dick Tomey. He had wanted to play for Stanford, but the Cardinal wouldn’t bite, figuring Cecil was too small, so he walked-on at Arizona after the Wildcats had run out of scholarships.
Cecil, known at Arizona and later in the NFL for his vicious hits — “The Heat-Seeking Missile” — was also one of the smartest players to ever suit up for the Wildcats.
In addition to Cecil being a two-time first team Academic All-America selection (1986-87), former UA secondary coach Duana Akina told me this in 2009:
“I would say Chuck had the most dynamic personality of anybody I’ve coached. He probably affected his teammates more than any player I’ve had. That is true leadership. I have never coached another like him who could carry the classroom to the field and who was so damn tough.”
Cecil is the Arizona career leader with 21 interceptions, including one that became the signature play in school history — his 106-yard return in a victory over Arizona State in 1986.
He intercepted four passes in a 1987 game against Stanford. A week later, according to Akina, Washington coach Don James was so afraid of what Cecil might do from his center field spot that the Huskies never attempted a pass inside the numbers on the field.
Cecil was inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
A fourth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1988, Cecil spent seven seasons in the NFL with three teams. He was a defensive coach with the Tennessee Titans from 2001-10 and with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams from 2012-16, all under Fisher. Cecil was the defensive coordinator for the Titans in 2009 and 2010. The Rams fired Fisher last season.