Tucson to UA pipeline has supplied many stars for Wildcats

Tucson to UA pipeline has supplied many stars for Wildcats
Anthony Gimino
Anthony Gimino

By Anthony Gimino / Special for Tucson News Now

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona Wildcats senior safety Jared Tevis, from Canyon del Oro High School, is second on the team with 31 tackles. Sophomore outside linebacker Jake Matthews, from Ironwood Ridge, had 10 tackles last week in his third career start.

CDO grad Ka'Deem Carey ended his UA career after last season as the most decorated offensive player in school history. Ironwood Ridge alum Jake Fischer was a three-year starter at linebacker who was honorable mention All-Pac-12 on the field and first-team all-conference in the classroom.

Salpointe Catholic's Cam Denson was the centerpiece of the Lancers' 2013 state title team and Arizona's 2014 recruiting class.

Point is, Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez has and will continue to get key contributions from Tucson kids.

California recruits will always be the lifeblood of any Pac-12 program, and Rodriguez and his staff have done a nice job establishing the Phoenix-area as a recruiting base, especially with the help of tight ends coach Charlie Ragle, the former head coach at Scottsdale Chaparral.

Then there's Tucson. Landing the best from the area is a sign of strength and a feel-good story, but there are usually no more than a few players to pick from each year. (The only non-Wildcat from Tucson on a Pac-12 roster is Stanford starting linebacker Blake Martinez, a CDO grad.)

"I had heard there were some players, but there weren't a lot of players, as far as Rose Bowl-caliber, Division I players," Rodriguez said about what he knew about Tucson-area talent when he arrived in November 2012.

"There's some talent here, but I think there is a disconnect between the youth programs and the high school programs sometimes. In other words, there are a whole lot of kids and youth league coaches, but a lot of them don't play when they get to high school.

"We need more of the youth kids playing in high school around here. And I think they need to work together, because there are a lot of good high school coaches and a lot of good youth coaches right here in Tucson."

It's notable that Tevis arrived at Arizona as a walk-on. Bulldog-tough, he has started 25 games and is noted as one of the league's hardest hitters. Matthews also arrived as a walk-on, choosing football over a chance at professional baseball.

Tevis eventually earned a scholarship. Matthews almost certainly will too, but convoluted NCAA rules mean he likely will have to wait until next season.

Two walk-ons from Tucson in the starting lineup? That's a good message to send to the area's high school talent.

"I hope so," Rodriguez said.

"There is good football here. Some guys maybe develop late or are a little undersized or something like that, which stops them from getting a scholarship, or a scholarship to a school they wanted. But for us, speaking as a former walk-on, I think walking-on here is a better option than going to another school - even a Division I school - because you get to stay home in front of your family and friends.

"And if you prove yourself, you'll earn that scholarship."

And success breeds success.

Denson, who has played sparingly at cornerback as a true freshman, said the tug of Tucson "wasn't that important," but he noted Carey's success in his hometown when making an informed college decision.

"Just seeing Ka'Deem being from Tucson and having a lot of success here, that also played a role," Denson said. "I don't have to leave Tucson to be successful. That played a role in why I came here."

All of this got us thinking about the best players from Tucson to play for Arizona. We narrowed our search to the Pac-10/Pac-12 years - so dating to 1978 - and compiled a first-team offense, defense and special teams.

A few notes: We expanded the geographic footprint to include San Manuel's Warner Smith, who was close enough and too good to leave off. There's so much talent at running back, we picked three. On the other hand, with a dearth of defensive linemen, we had to go with five linebackers, all of whom we like just fine.

Note that the Tucson talent at Arizona is clustered in a couple of eras -- mid 1980s and early 1990s -- although the past couple of years have been a high point as well.

Here, then, is the University of Arizona's All-Tucson team (years at Arizona in parentheses):


QB: Jim Krohn, Amphi (1976-79) -- Starter helped usher the Cats into Pac-10.

RB: Ka'Deem Carey, CDO (2011-13) -- Two-time consensus All-American.

RB: Vance Johnson, Cholla (1981-84) -- All-league RB became star receiver in NFL.

RB: David Adams, Sunnyside (1984-86) -- Lots of fun to watch; 2,571 career yards.

WR: Jon Horton, Sunnyside (1983-86) -- Among UA leaders with 136 catches for 2,415 yards.

WR: Jay Dobyns, Sahuaro (1982-84) -- Made 92 catches in his final two seasons.

TE: Richard Griffith, Catalina (1989-92) -- Four-year starter, often asked to block.

OL: John Fina, Salpointe (1988-91) -- One of UA's all-time finest spent 11 years in NFL.

OL: Warner Smith, San Manuel (1991-94) -- First-team All-Pac-10 as senior.

OL: Mike Freeman, Sahuaro (1981-83) -- Went on to play four years in NFL.

OL: Jeff Kiewel, Sabino (1980-82) -- First-team all-league guard in 1982.

OL: Mike Heemsbergen, Santa Rita (1991-92) -- JC transfer was second-team all-league in '92.


DL: Brooks Reed, Sabino (2007-10) -- 17 career sacks and an NFL standout.

DL: Todd Thompson, Sahuaro (1996) -- Played some; injuries, academics took toll.

LB: Sean Harris, Tucson (1991-94) -- Made 32.5 tackles for loss in Desert Swarm era.

LB: Jake Fischer, Ironwood Ridge (2009-13) -- Smart and productive: 283 career tackles.

LB: Craig Vesling, CDO (1982-85) -- Late INT sealed win over ASU in 1984.

LB: Jerry Beasley, Sunnyside (1984-87) -- Made 134 tackles as a senior.

LB: Adrian Koch, Desert View (1997-00) -- Ex-Marine went from walk-on to inspiring starter.

DB: Jared Tevis, CDO (2011-14) -- Loves to hit; has knack for being in the right place.

DB: Mike Scurlock, Cholla (1991-94) -- Super athlete played five years in NFL.

DB: Clay Hardt, Marana (2000-03) -- Hard-hitter gave his all during tough UA times

DB: Tony Wingate, Sahuaro (2002-04) -- Could play both safety spots, nickel back.


K: Steve McLaughlin, Sahuaro (1991-94) -- Won Groza Award as nation's best PK.

P: Matt Peyton, Sahuaro (1993-96) -- Topped out at 43.7 yards per attempt in '96.

SN: Jeremy Evans, CDO (1994-96) -- Three-year starter; best snapper of Dick Tomey era.

HOLD: Ryan Hesson, Sahuaro (1993-96) -- Tomey loved "cerebral" skills of backup QB.

ST: Joe Lohmeier, Sahuaro (1991-94) -- Special teams inspiration, battling through injuries.

RET: Michael Bates, Amphi (1989-90) -- Future Olympic sprinter had kick return TD in '90.

Apologizes to (among others) ...

RB David Eldridge, Pueblo; RB Kevin Schmidtke, CDO; WR Chris Corral, Cholla; TE Brad Wood, Sabino; TE Lamar Harris, Tucson; C Wayne Wyatt, Mountain View; OL Mike Ciasca, Sahuaro; OL Willie Walker, Desert View; OL Doug Penner, Sabino; DB Adam Hall, Palo Verde; P Frank Garcia, Salpointe; P Sergio Vega, Pueblo

Anthony Gimino has covered University of Arizona athletics for more than two decades, including as the football beat writer for the Arizona Daily Star and the columnist for the Tucson Citizen.

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