Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff: 55 days

We are now only 55 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.

To catch up on the countdown click on this: Arizona Wildcats 2018 countdown to kickoff.

A look back

— With it being the 56th day until kickoff, the best player to wear No. 55 for Arizona? That would be two-time All-Border Conference tailback (in 1936 and 1937) Bronko Smiland. He also earned Honorable Mention Little All-America in 1938 and played in the College All-Star Game in 1939. Gained 1,608 yards rushing and scored 102 points in his career. Named second team on the half-decade (1949) All-Time Arizona football team by the Arizona Daily Star.

In 1955 he was selected by the same newspaper as one of 10 greatest backs in UA history. Starred on 1937 team that finished 8-2. He played with the last name Smilanich while at Arizona but later changed the name to Smiland.

Bronko Smiland (last name Smilanich while at Arizona) is in the school’s Hall of Fame.

Born in Chisholm, Minn., he played professionally in 1939 with the Cleveland Rams and later became a paint industry executive in California. In 1966, he founded Smiland Paint Co. In 1977, concerned that environmental restrictions might doom the paint industry, Smiland founded the Ad Hoc Committee of Small California Paint Manufacturers to contest certain measures. Because of that work, he was honored by the Southern California Paint and Coatings Assn. His company, which has grown from 15 employees to more than 200, earned a reputation as a fortress of advocacy for the “little guys” in the paint manufacturing and distribution market.

He passed away at age 85 in 2001.

Bronko Smiland was one of the best tailbacks in Arizona history (Arizona photo)

Player interview: Brant Boyer

Brant Boyer was one of the key members of Arizona’s Desert Swarm defense in the early 1990’s. He was a co-captain of the team in 1993 when the Wildcats went 10-2 and beat Miami 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl. He led the team in total tackles in 1993 (90), unassisted tackles in 1992 (49) and 1993 (70) and assisted tackles in 1993 (20). He played 10 seasons in the NFL for Miami, Jacksonville and Cleveland. He is in his third season as the special teams coach with the New York Jets.

Brant Boyer was a standout for the Desert Swarm defense at linebacker.

Favorite game?

“The Fiesta Bowl (in 1994). It was my last game at Arizona and it was redemption from the loss in Miami the year before (when the Wildcats lost 8-7 to the top-ranked Hurricanes).”

Favorite Arizona player?

“Didn’t have a favorite honestly. Any guy in those two years that I was at the UA was a pleasure to play with and a brother for life.”

Favorite play?

“The goal-line stand in the UCLA game in ’92. We didn’t want them to score at all and they had 3 shots at it from inside the 2 or 3, I believe, and we held them. They kicked a field goal down 20 in the fourth quarter to keep a scoring streak alive. Desert Swarm was born.”

Embed from Getty Images

Favorite coach memory?

“I think Coach (Dick) Tomey has a better feel for handling players than any coach I’ve ever played for.”

What excites you about Arizona’s upcoming season?

“New staff, wide open offense with one of the most exciting quarterbacks (Khalil Tate) in the country.”


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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