We are now only 51 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 51st day until kickoff, the best player to wear No. 51 for Arizona? That would be center Tom Greenfield, who starred from the Wildcats from 1936-38. He was selected a Little All-American in 1938 and went on to play for the Green Bay Packers from 1939 to 1941.
Greenfield was named to the half-decade (1949) All-Time Arizona football team as center by The Arizona Daily Star. Named All-Border Conference at center in 1937-38 and to All-Time Rocky Mountain Area (NCAA District 7) team.
He was only 200 pounds yet played first-string for the Packers before becoming injured.
A look ahead
No. 51 for Arizona this year includes two players: Sophomore walk-on long snapper Donald Reiter (in his third year in the program) and junior linebacker Lee Anderson III, who has played sparingly in his first two seasons in the program. He played in all 13 games last season but registered only one tackle and one pass breakup.
Former player interview: Joe Tafoya
Joe Tafoya is one of the most aggressive pursuing defenders Arizona has produced. He had 16 sacks over a two-year stretch (1999 and 2000). The former defensive end ranks fourth in Arizona history with 24.5 career sacks. His 18 tackles for lost yardage in 2000 — which is seventh in program history — were the most in a season for Arizona until Scooby Wright’s 29 in 2014.
Tafoya, 39, played seven years in the NFL, which included a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks in the 2005 season. He has remained in the Seattle area and is active in the community there. After running a social media consultation business, he now owns Lady12 Apparel that includes a theme with Seahawks colors.
“Holiday Bowl 1998 when we beat up on Nebraska. I leveled Eric Couch and Chris McAlisterr intercepted the ball to take over the game.”
“Kelvon Eafon — he was the most inspiring teammate I’ve ever had at any level.”
“Ortege Jenkins’ flip into the end zone to win the game at Washington (in 1998). It was an away game in enemy territory and we never once thought we would lose.”
Favorite coach memory?
“Coach (Dick) Tomey once told me in a private meeting after I did something dumb, ‘Joe, be a leader by lifting up others not yourself.’ I always remember how proud of me he was when I put his words to action.”
What excites you about the 2018 season?
“What excites me most about the upcoming season is figuring out who our team is. No one knows what to expect from the new coach and we are excited with the possibilities of a fresh start.”
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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.