Hometown Heroes

Hometown Heroes: Sahuaro’s Mike Ciasca chose Arizona to be “part of a tradition of excellence”

With Arizona gaining last week the commitment of 5-star Salpointe defensive end Elijah Rushing, the highest rated recruit in Wildcat history according to 247Sports, AllSportsTucson.com is reliving the decisions made by previous elite local standouts who stayed home and played for the Wildcats. Catch up on the series by clicking here.


High School: Sahuaro (Class of 1990)

Position: Offensive tackle

Size: 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds

Chose Arizona instead of attending: Michigan, USC, UCLA or Florida State.

Sahuaro’s Mike Ciasca took an official visit to Michigan and was strongly considering USC before deciding to play for Dick Tomey at Arizona (Linda Seeger/Tucson Citizen file photo)

High school accolades: Parade All-American. USA Today All-USA Second Team. Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West Team. SuperPrep No. 1 player in the West. Ed Doherty Award winner as the state’s player of the year in 1989.

Quotable: “I decided on the UA because I want to play for my hometown school and I want to be part of a tradition of excellence here. I want to be part of a program that is going to win the Pac-10 title and go to the Rose Bowl. I think the UA program is really ready to take off and I want to be part of that.” — Ciasca to the Tucson Citizen after committing to Arizona on Jan. 28, 1990.

Notable: Ciasca, who played under legendary coach Howard Breinig at Sahuaro, and former Amphi running back Michael Bates (who signed with Arizona a year before Ciasca arrived) broke a trend of local high-level standouts going elsewhere. … John Mistler, a Sahuaro receiver, went to ASU. Sunnyside running back Fred Sims left to Oklahoma. Riki Gray-Ellison departed to USC after graduating from Amphi. Rodney Peete, who played at Sahuaro before playing his senior season near Kansas City after his dad Willie got a coaching job with the Chiefs, also went to USC. … Breinig, who coached 45 years, including 16 as head coach at Sahuaro, told the Tucson Citizen that Ciasca is “the biggest kid Sahuaro has ever had.” Breinig added, “He’s an impressive individual. He ran a 4.9 in the 40 at the University of Arizona summer camp. He was second in the Junior Olympics with a 309-pound power-clean (lift).” … Ciasca told the Citizen that his decision came down to Arizona and USC, which was coached by former Wildcat coach Larry Smith. He also visited Michigan, coached by Gary Moeller. … “When I woke up in the morning, I knew I wanted to be a Wildcat,” Ciasca told the Citizen the day he committed. “If I had gone to USC, my parents could see my play on TV all the time or go over to Los Angeles every now and then for a game. I really like the program at UA. I want to major in business administration and Arizona has a great business school.” Ciasca had a 3.30 GPA when he graduated from Sahuaro.

Postscripts: Tomey completed his third year at Arizona by the time Ciasca committed. Arizona was 19-12-3 (with an 0-3 record against USC) under Tomey at the time Ciasca joined the program. Arizona went 27-14-1 with Ciasca by the time he was forced to stop playing by team doctors before the 1994 season following serious knee, shoulder and back injuries. He was part of the 10-2 team in 1993 that won the Fiesta Bowl, although the last game he played for the Wildcats was on Oct. 2 of that season, against USC in a 38-7 victory. When he was on Tomey’s team, Arizona went 3-1 against the Trojans. … Disc problems in his back ultimately made doctors declare Ciasca medically ineligible. He was limited to eight starts in his four years with the Wildcats because of a string of injuries, starting with an ACL tear when he was a freshman. … “The hardest part is the emotional part of it,” Ciasca told Anthony Gimino of the Arizona Daily Star early in the 1994 season, when he watched games on the sidelines in street clothes with his career over. “Watching a game and going, ‘Dang, I know I could go out there and make that block. That’s hard.” … Ciasca, 51, now lives in Marana and is a successful bilingual businessman as an account executive with Shamrock Foods Co. He also has served as territory manager of food sales for US Foods. … His competitive days did not end with football. He trained to become a competitive bicyclist.



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. He became an educator seven years ago and is presently a special education teacher at his alma mater Sunnyside High School.

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