Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: George Mihalopoulos

We have reached 94 days until the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 season under new coach Kevin Sumlin.

When Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1, it will mark the 40th anniversary since the Wildcats joined the Pac-12 (went from the Pac-8 to the Pac-10 then) and also the 20th anniversary of the 1998 team with the best record in school history, 12-1, and the 25th anniversary of the 1993 team that went 10-2 with a win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.

To get ready for the upcoming season, All Sports Tucson offers another countdown, which will include memories from former Wildcats, history notes and a look ahead to the season. Think of it as a way to keep Arizona football on the mind in the summer months leading up to fall camp in early August and then kickoff against the Cougars marking the start of the Sumlin Era.

A look back

— With it being the 94th day ’til kickoff, the best player to wear No. 94 for Arizona? That would be defensive tackle Anthony Smith (1989). An Alabama transfer made his one year with Wildcats count, with all-conference honors before being a first-round pick by the Raiders. His NFL career never flourished and his life sadly went tragically wayward. In 2016, Smith was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences, without the possibility of parole, for the alleged murder of three people.

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A look ahead

Wearing No. 94 for Arizona this year is redshirt junior defensive tackle Sione Taufahema. The 6-foot-1, 300-pound lineman was forced to redshirt last year because of a knee injury suffered before fall camp. He is a transfer from the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, Calif. He combined for 52 tackles in two seasons there and was named SCFA All-Second-Team defense in 2015 and 2016.

Former player interview: George Mihalopoulos

George Mihalopoulous played tight end and on the offensive line for the Wildcats from 1986 to 1988 and was a graduate assistant in 1989.

George Mihalopolous with his wife Melissa.

Favorite game as a Wildcat?

“I have two games, my first year in 1986 has to be the ASU game for obvious reasons (when Arizona upset the Rose Bowl-bound Sun Devils). The second is is in 1988, my senior year when we beat Washington in Seattle. It was cold, about 38 degrees and drizzling at kickoff. Washington had our locker room at about 85 degrees. We walk down the tunnel to the field right by them and of course they are barking like dogs. The game was back and forth, lead changing a few times. About 30 seconds left in the fourth when Scotty Geyer sacks their QB and he fumbles and the good guys recover it on about the 15-yard line. Offense ran two plays and Doug Pfaff comes in and drills the field goal with 3 seconds left. I remember it like yesterday, coming off the field with Coach (Dick) Tomey and he is barking like a dog saying, ‘Not barking now !’ Flight home was very sweet!”

Favorite Wildcat other than yourself and why?

“As an offensive lineman we were pretty close, Tom Lynch, Rhino (Dave Roney), John Brandom, Doug Penner, Glenn Parker, Dave Bourland, Frank Areola, Big Val Bichekas (RIP), Doug Pritchard and many others ….. Joe Tofflemire (RIP) and I roomed together in Cochise our senior year in 1988. JT was an outstanding player but an even better teammate and friend. We kept in contact over the years and was saddened when he passed.”

Favorite play in Arizona history?

“Have two, ASU in ’86 with Chuck Cecil’s pick-6 and ’88 at Washington, Pfaff’s field goal to win it.”

Favorite memory about your coach?

“Coach Tomey and his entire staff were outstanding, Johnny Lynn, Arnold Jeter, Larry Mac Duff, Duane Akina … all of them. My position coach Ron McBride, aka Mac, was amazing. Anyone that played for coach Mac has a story, remember the McBride high five fondly. He was an old school coach. We all loved playing for him! He would hug you on great plays and ride you on bad ones. Just an outstanding players coach!”

What excites you the most about the upcoming season?

“Looking forward to seeing the Cats continue to improve, especially on defense. The JV basketball scores of 48-45 are hard to watch and also looking forward to Khalil Tate and how he improves from last year. Living in Austin, I’m very familiar with Kevin Sumlin’s time at Texas A&M. In my humble opinion, he didn’t get a fair shake from the board of regents there, I have several Aggie friends that liked him. Sumlin’s strength of character and sense of do the right thing is welcoming.”

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