Nothing But The Notes

Foles now on Arizona’s Mount Rushmore of athletes as best diplomats for school?

Pick the Mount Rushmore of Arizona athletes who are the best diplomats for the athletic department and Tucson based on their achievements, public appeal nationally and internationally and reliability to help the university and the city to enhance their image. Almost seven years ago, I put together a reader poll called, “Bear Down Leader,” in which a list the top four vote-getters were deemed worthy of the Mount Rushmore of Arizona sports. These athletes were Jennie Finch, Steve Kerr, Terry Francona and Tedy Bruschi. If that same poll was taken today, Nick Foles might unseat one of them although all of them remain in the public eye. The Super Bowl MVP is such a prestigious award because of the magnitude of the game and its worldwide interest. Foles’ image raising the Vince Lombardi Award will live on forever. He is Arizona’s career passing leader as well in only three seasons. …

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Other former Arizona athletes who should be considered for the Mount Rushmore are Andre Iguodala, two-time NBA Finals champ and MVP of the 2015 Finals with the world-renowned Golden State Warriors; Tucson’s own Sean Elliott, who has been a San Antonio Spurs broadcaster for 15 years; Annika Sorenstam, who designs golf courses and is an entrepreneur with her ANNIKA Foundation; and Luke Walton, head coach of one the most popular franchises in sports, the Los Angeles Lakers. Arizona can’t go wrong with any of them. … Tucson has five former high school boys basketball players on Division I rosters — Arizona’s Talbott Denny (Salpointe), Colorado State’s Deion James (Empire), Central Connecticut State’s Austin Nehls (Catalina Foothills), San Francisco’s Nate Renfro (Sahuaro) and Portland State’s Brendan Rumel (Rincon). … Rumel is out this season with a hip injury after playing in 16 games (starting twice) for the Vikings in 2016-17. … James, a Division II National Junior College Association Player of the Year selection last season at Pima Community College, is thriving with the struggling Rams. Larry Eustacy, the coach who signed James, is on administrative leave and will likely not return after charges of abusive behavior toward staff members and players. James, a 6-8, 215-pound forward, recently had a 24-point, 12-rebound against Wyoming. He is averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. … Nehls, son of former Arizona sharpshooter Joe Nehls, is averaging 9.6 points a game. He is unfortunately struggling with his perimeter shot, making only 33.5 percent of his 3-pointers. He has made only 11 of his last 50 3-point attempts. … Renfro is averaging 5.4 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Dons. He is coming off one of his better games in a 65-63 win over Portland on Thursday with 12 points and six rebounds. Renfro had two dunks and a layup during a 10-0 opening run and the Dons never trailed. …

Former Sunnyside and ASU wrestling standout Thom Ortiz will take part in an MMA bout tonight in Phoenix at the age of 50

Sunnyside High School’s wrestling program won its 31st state title on Friday continuing the strongest winning tradition in Tucson. One of the legendary standouts during the storied Don Klostreich coaching era from 1979 to 1988 was Thom Ortiz, who went on to excel at Arizona State and became the Sun Devils’ head coach. He now owns the World Fighting Federation, LLC, which has staged MMA events in Tucson. Ortiz, 50, is actually a fighter within the WFF and is fighting in the main event tonight at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino. He is matched against Tucson’s Andy Perez, who is only 29. Perez was born in 1988, after Ortiz completed his stellar wrestling career at Sunnyside. Now they meet in the octagon with Ortiz looking as fit as Perez. Unreal. … Arizona can boast of 31 former athletes serving as head coaches at the high school, college and professional levels, showing impressive diversity. Of those 31, 11 are women, eight are African-American and three are Hispanic. First-year UNLV coach Kristie Fox-Jarvis, who played for Mike Candrea’s program from 2004 to 2007, was the subject of a Las Vegas Sun article this week in which she comments about balancing motherhood with coaching. She gave birth to her second child, son Mikie, on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas. That is the day a gunman opened fire on The Strip and killed 58 concertgoers, the worst mass shooting in modern American history. She text messaged her players to make sure they were fine and thankfully all of them were. Only 32, she has connected well with her UNLV players. The family atmosphere extends to her husband Andy Jarvis, who is also an assistant coach. Fox was seven months pregnant when UNLV hired her from Texas-Arlington in July. Dividing time between family and her team is not an issue for Fox. “I’m a mom. I’m a coach,” Fox told the Sun. “There’s no reason why I can’t do both things well.” …

Among the amazing stories involving Foles from the Super Bowl experience was the news of his wife, former Arizona volleyball standout Tori Foles, battling Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) since 2013. She was later diagnosed with Lyme disease. Her heart rate could raise 30 beats per minute just from sitting and standing. She underwent tests for these symptoms in Rochester, Minn., five years ago. Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl in nearby Minneapolis. Because Tori underwent these tests at the time of their marriage, Nick acknowledged during the week of the Super Bowl that “we never had a wedding ceremony. We never had a honeymoon. Just the journey we’ve gone on and gone through this and just to see her strength and to see her determination and to see her health continue to improve. And she still deals with it. It’s amazing. It gives me strength because I know she deals with it every single day.” Her early treatments were at the same time Nick was going through the tumultuous time of his professional career when he was traded by Philadelphia to St. Louis, which later released him. Foles contemplated early retirement but his faith kept him in football. His resolve stems from the bible verse 2 Corinthians 12:9, which includes the words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The perseverance from learning from his shortcomings includes the Super Bowl title and MVP, but for Nick and Tori, their ultimate reward is the birth of Lily last June. … Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke told the “Kevin and Mike Show” on KCUB (1290-AM) last week that Foles will be invited back to campus to be introduced to Arizona fans when Foles’ schedule allows. That could mean an introduction at McKale Center during a basketball game. It would be nice for Tori and Lily to be part of that welcome. “We’d love to have Nick come; I think he wants to come back to campus in the near future and do some things,” Heeke told Kevin Woodman and Mike Luke. “It will be a lot of fun for our fans and everyone. We would love for Nick to come back when it’s right for him. Obviously, he and his wife, another student-athlete from here, a former volleyball player, to be back on campus would be wonderful. We’ll do that when the time’s right and recognize them the right way. His world changed now, let’s all be honest, when that (playoff) run started, especially the way it culminated.” …

Punter Dylan Klumph’s transfer from Cal to Arizona is likely the first of many such shifts with Kevin Sumlin as Arizona’s head coach. Texas A&M’s roster last year had 11 transfers, six from other four-year schools and five from junior college. Among the most noted transfers was former UCLA defensive back Priest Willis, a Tempe Marcos de Niza product. A few reasons for the notable movement into Sumlin’s program — he is known to produce NFL draft prospects, he is personable among players and he and his assistant coaches have a wide-ranging network of coaches at various levels that refer players to him. … New Arizona offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone played quarterback at New Mexico from 1975 to 1979 when the Wildcats were transitioning from the WAC to the Pac-10. In a 1976 game at Albuquerque, he completed 7 of 11 passes for only 95 yards with a touchdown and interception in a 21-15 over the Wildcats. Mazzone was more of a running quarterback — sound familiar? — as he gained 98 yards on 18 carries in that game. The following year in Tucson, Mazzone, a junior playing against Arizona for the last time because the Wildcats left for the Pac-10 in 1978, was on the losing end of a thriller. The Wildcats won 15-13 after a controversial development occurred when New Mexico lined up for two-point conversion try with 1:04 left in the game. This came after Mazzone engineered an 82-yard scoring drive. Mazzone backed away from center on the two-point try apparently trying to call a timeout but the referees ignored him because the Lobos just called timeout to discuss what play they would run. The 30-second clock continued to run and New Mexico was called for a delay of game penalty. With the ball placed at the 8, New Mexico tried a run-pass option play to the right but the play was sniffed out by Arizona’s defense. Back then winning the Kit Carson Rifle in the Arizona-New Mexico rivalry was a big thing. Arizona’s players celebrated with the Kit Carson Rifle on the field after the win. Wonder if that still resonates with Mazzone. Now he is shooting for something much more important with Arizona still starving for its first Rose Bowl appearance. Mazzone reportedly wanted to be Arizona’s offensive coordinator when Mike Stoops became Arizona’s coach in 2003 but that job went to Mike Canales. Fifteen years later, he’s in Tucson with Sumlin. …


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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.

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