No. 4 on the Arizona Wildcats Badass List: Tedy Bruschi and David Adamsby Javier Morales on Nov. 08, 2011, under Sports
Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category
Don’t forget: For all the links, Twitter feeds and news feeds related to Arizona and its opponents, go to Morales’ site WILDABOUTAZCATS.NET. No other Arizona sports Web site is like it!
No. 4: TEDY BRUSCHI, defensive end (1992-1995)
Being a badass can be uplifting to not only a football program, but also a community, and, yes, a nation.
Tedy Bruschi is a Wildcat legend and a Tucson favorite because of how he emerged from obscurity, perceived to be too small and slow out of high school (6 feet and 230 pounds), to become the school’s all-time sack leader with 55. That’s more than double the next guy on the list — defensive end Ricky Elmore — who accumulated 25.5 sacks from 2007-10.
While with the New England Patriots, Bruschi — appropriately nicknamed “Full Tilt” — became a national hero when he returned to the field midway through the 2005 season after suffering a minor stroke. He played only seven months after doctors repaired a small hole in his heart that was the cause of his stroke.
“Getting back to playing football was a big part of why I wanted to come back, but how am I supposed to tell my sons (Tedy Jr., Rex and Dante) later in life that any obstacle can be overcome, that you can achieve anything in life, if I don’t live my life that way?” Bruschi was quoted as saying in a USA Today article.
“I want to draw off my experiences on how I lived my life and be able to teach them from what I’ve experienced. For me to be able to teach them about life and overcoming any challenge they’re presented with, I have to live my life that way.”
His sons — and all of us — can not have a better role model.
Bruschi, who grew up in an impoverished area of Sacramento, overcame a difficult upbringing after his parents divorced when he was 3. He didn’t start playing organized football until 14. He ran track, wrestled and lettered in football his last two years, when he was noticed by small colleges and former Arizona coach Dick Tomey.
It is well documented that Bruschi resorted to drinking and got into fights mostly because of the demands placed on him by his father and his helpless feeling about alleviating the burdens placed on his mom. As he matured at Arizona, and became one of the Desert Swarm’s standouts, Bruschi channeled that anger the appropriate way. He became a badass on the football field in every sense of the word.
“I had a chip on my shoulder the size of a boulder,” Bruschi said in a Boston Globe interview. “I suppose it comes from growing up hard. I can’t fully explain it. All I know is it seemed like I was angry a lot when I played football.”
Similar to former UA center Joe Tofflemire, No. 5 on our Badass List, Bruschi was a three-time All-Pac-10 first-team selection and a Morris Trophy winner for being the top lineman in the league in 1995. He was a consensus All-American in 1994 and a unanimous pick in 1995.
Scouts deemed him too small at 6-1, 247 pounds coming out of Arizona to make it as an NFL defensive end. But Bill Parcells, the Patriots coach at the time, and defensive assistants Bill Belichick, Al Groh and Romeo Crennel believed their 1996 third-round choice can thrive at linebacker.
Chalk that up as one of the best draft choices in Patriots’ history.
“I think (Bruschi’s) the kind of person that could do just about anything that his capabilities would allow him to do,” Tomey said in a 2008 Boston Globe article. “He was a great defensive end. Obviously, he would be undersized for the NFL … but he was just tremendously quick and he had a tremendous passion. He played at a different level than most other players, but again, he came that way and that’s not something we taught him.
“When he was coming out of college, everybody was suspicious about ‘is he big enough? Can he run fast enough?’ And you’re trying to pound it into their heads: ‘You just need to watch the tape. He’s a special player.’ Gladly, the Patriots recognized that.”
Bruschi, 38, who played 13 years in the NFL and won three Super Bowl rings with New England, serves as an NFL analyst for ESPN studio programs.
No. 4 DAVID ADAMS, tailback (1984-1986)
David Adams is the most extreme example of a Wildcat who answered quite emphatically those critics who claimed he was too small to succeed. The Atlanta Constitution-Journal described Adams as a “waif with wings” before the Wildcats played Georgia in the 1985 Sun Bowl.
The Sunnyside High School graduate, listed at 5-foot-6 and 165 pounds during his Wildcat career, is arguably pound-for-pound the biggest badass the program has produced. Former UA coach Larry Smith found promise in Adams where others did not.
“He keeps his nose to the grindstone,” the late Smith often said about Adams during the tailback’s career.
“One of the main things that motivated me was people saying I couldn’t do it,” Adams told me Sunday. “I wanted my mom (Clarice Adams) to be proud of me and football was what I was best at.”
Adams, who led the Pac-10 in rushing his senior season in 1986 with 1,175 yards on 238 attempts, made believers out of his opponents.
Former Oregon safety Anthony Newman, whose team allowed Adams to rush for 130 yards in a 41-17 loss in 1986, told the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard: “David Adams is very hard to tackle, and he’s much calmer and collected and did a better job of reading the defense than last year. He is so quick, yet he’s still willing to run over you and strong enough to do it.”
Adams never stopped at hearing the word “No”, he said, and that separated him from not only players his size but the behemoths as well.
“If given the opportunity, I could show them I had the skills,” Adams told me in regards to coaches who passed on him out of Sunnyside. “I just wasn’t tall, but I could play. I also knew the world could only give you so many ‘Nos’ before somebody said ‘Yes’ … It just the law of average.
“Plus, I would not take no for an answer. Failure is never an option.”
If Arizona’s current team, 2-6 and playing under an interim coach, embodied Adams’ fortitude, who knows? Adams missed only one game during his UA career because of a leg injury — “I could have played but the coaches didn’t let me,” said — which exemplified his badass nature even more. His teammates could always count on him. Can the same thing be said about today’s players?
“I would tell (the 2011 Cats) to be mentally tough; you must want to prove something more than anything else,” Adams said. “You must kill me to beat me because I will keep coming back until I win.
“Plus you must realize that I am the best and there is no way you can beat me at anything. If you do, we will play again until I win, no matter how long it takes.”
Adams, 47, said the plays he most remembers is “diving over the top (of the line) for touchdowns and first downs. I could always jump outta the gym!”
One of his most memorable plays, however, was a zig-zag 18-yard touchdown run after catching a pass from Alfred Jenkins when the Wildcats stunned Rose Bowl-bound ASU 34-17 in 1986 at Arizona Stadium. That play capped a 97-yard drive in the first quarter and set to the tone for the game, culminating on Chuck Cecil’s historic 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Adams is now a partner with A&K Ventures, a residential and commercial real-estate development firm in Tucson. He was drafted in the 12th round by Dallas in 1987. He played three games with the Cowboys that year when the league used replacement players during the NFL players union strike.
THE BADASS LIST
4. Tedy Bruschi, defensive end (1992-95)
5. Marcus Bell, linebacker (1996-99)
6. Byron Evans, linebacker (1983-86)
7. Brant Boyer, linebacker (1992-93)
8. Ty Parten, defensive tackle (1989-92)
9. Jimmie Hopkins, defensive end (1990-93)
10. Al “Bubba” Gross, safety (1979-82)
4. David Adams, tailback (1984-86)
5. Joe Tofflemire, center (1985-88)
6. Glenn Parker, offensive guard (1988-89)
7. Rob Gronkowski, tight end (2007-08)
8. Hicham El-Mashtoub, center (1991-94)
9. Dennis Northcutt, wide receiver (1996-99)
10. Nick Foles, quarterback (2009-11)