We have reached 47 days until when the Arizona Wildcats kick off their 2018 season under new coach Kevin Sumlin. The season begins when Arizona hosts BYU on Sept. 1 at Arizona Stadium.
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.
1993 vs. 1998
The season marks some substantial anniversaries. It is 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.
A debate among Arizona followers has developed in recent years over which team was better — the 1993 team that brought the program the famed Desert Swarm defense (one of the top units in the history of college football) or the 1998 team that finished No. 4 in the nation and came basically a half away against UCLA from going unbeaten.
My colleague Anthony Gimino wrote about this debate for the Tucson Citizen in 2013.
Both teams were coached by Dick Tomey, the winningest coach in Arizona history (95-64-4 from 1987 to 2000).
We started the debate last Friday when it was 50 days to kickoff. Here are the positions — with reader polls included — we have covered so far:
Today, the position shifts to tight ends.
1993 tight ends: The starting tight end was Rod Lewis, who was an All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection as a senior that season after playing outside linebacker with the Wildcats at the outset of his career. The Dallas product who was born in Washington, D.C., was selected in the fifth round by the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) in the 1994 NFL draft. He played four seasons in the NFL, which is commendable given he only had eight receptions for 94 yards in two years as the tight end at Arizona.
1998 tight ends: Mike Lucky started every game that season at tight end and Brandon Manumaleuna also saw playing time, some in the backfield as a H-back blocker for Trung Canidate. Lucky was an honorable mention selection of the All-Pac-10 team his senior season of 1998. He was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by Dallas and he played with the Cowboys for four seasons (1999 to 2002). As a senior, he was fourth on the team with 11 receptions for 142 yards. He also added 40 knockdown blocks, helping the team average 213 rushing yards per game (14th in the nation). In the last game against ASU, his blocking contributed to Arizona gaining 607 rushing yards, including a school record 288 rushing yards by Canidate. He finished as one of the school’s top receiving tight ends, with 43 receptions for 563 yards and four touchdowns. Manumaleuna began his career at Arizona as a defensive lineman before making the switch to tight end and H-back. He finished his career with 40 receptions for 544 yards and three touchdowns. He went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL. He had six catches for 22 yards as a sophomore in 1998.
A look back at No. 47
— The best to wear No. 47 for Arizona was linebacker Steve Boadway, who was a standout from 1981 to 1984. Boadway led the Pac-10 with 13 sacks in 1984. At the end of that year, he knocked the ball loose from ASU QB Jeff Van Raaphorst, resulting in a late-game interception in Arizona’s 16-10 win. Boadway is now the principal at Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff. He has been a longtime educator and administrator in Flagstaff.
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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.