No. 3 on the Arizona Wildcats Badass List: Rob Waldrop and Kelvin Eafonby Javier Morales on Nov. 14, 2011, under Sports
Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category
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No. 3: ROB WALDROP, defensive tackle (1990-1993)
This badass list already has four members of the Desert Swarm — No. 4 Tedy Bruschi, No. 7 Brant Boyer, No. 8 Ty Parten and No. 9 Jimmie Hopkins — but none of these standouts was as dominant as defensive tackle Rob Waldrop.
“What he did in college speaks for itself,” Boyer told TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino in May when it was announced that Waldrop was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
“I’m convinced there would not have been a Desert Swarm defense without Rob Waldrop. We had a lot of great players on that team, but it started and ended with that guy.”
Waldrop capped his career as the Outland Trophy winner for the nation’s top interior lineman in 1993. Attempts by opponents to double- and triple-team Waldrop were futile. Among his 53 tackles his senior season 14 were for lost yardage, including eight sacks. In his final two seasons, he had 18 sacks.
Waldrop was a significant reason why the Desert Swarm led the nation and set a Pac-10 record with 33 rushing yards allowed per game in 1993. He finished his Arizona career with 164 tackles, an remarkable feat for an interior lineman, with 44 tackles for lost yardage and 22.5 sacks, which ranks fifth in UA’s history.
Former teammate Heath Bray told Gimino of Waldrop: “We’d see him laying out in the sun, and I’d say, ‘You need to lay out in the sun because you are one damn cold-blooded reptile.’”
As vicious as Waldrop was on opponents, he was also very calculating. He often said that as a nose guard it was easy to detect if an opponent was about to run by observing the stance of the offensive linemen. Waldrop, who always challenged himself, used his brains as well as his brute force to get the most out of his skills.
Former Arizona coach Dick Tomey told Steve Rivera of FoxSportsArizona.com that he remembered Waldrop putting himself “on two-a-days” and becoming a different type of player heading into his sophomore season after he prodded the player.
“Coaches are always challenging players, and sometimes things don’t happen, but in this case he took the challenge,” Tomey told Rivera. “I told him, ‘Rob you’re a good player, a starter and one of the best on the team, but you can be great. So why not be great?’ So he decided to be great.”
Waldrop also told Rivera that he was not satisfied of his skill level entering his UA career, and that drove him to get the most out of his ability.
“I had to do an immense amount of work,” he said. “I did feel I had a level of God-given ability. At the end of the day until I had reached college, I had survived on that. Then I got to college and had to work harder.”
Waldrop, who turns 40 on Dec. 1, is now involved with law enforcement in southern California. He will officially join former Wildcat greats Chuck Cecil and Ricky Hunley in college football’s Hall of Fame on Dec. 6.
No. 3 KELVIN EAFON, fullback/tailback (1996-1998)
Arizona’s offensive captain during its 12-1 season in 1998 was not Ortege Jenkins, Keith Smith, Dennis Northcutt or Trung Canidate. That responsibility was given to Eafon, who originally came to Arizona to play basketball but found his place on the football field through hard work.
The other players mentioned grabbed most of the headlines and accolades. Eafon mostly earned respect from his coaches, teammates and opponents.
“If we could all play as hard and as tough as Kelvin Eafon, we would win every game we played,” Tomey said in a 1997 Seattle Times article. “Kelvin is such a warrior, such a competitor. He is a kind of symbol and competitor that we can all admire. I hope that players try to emulate him.”
Eafon, a backup to Canidate at tailback, emerged from the shadows with a 140-yard performance in a 58-28 win over Washington in 1997. Eafon, normally the starting fullback, started in place of Canidate, who was out with an ankle sprain. Eafon also rushed for three of Arizona’s four touchdowns in the game.
“It wasn’t good enough if the team did not win,” Eafon was quoted as saying by the Seattle Times. “I am a winner, and I want the team to win. I don’t care if I only get 4 yards if we win. Then it would be enough.”
Eafon’s toughness was showcased in the UA’s 20-14 victory over New Mexico in the 1997 Insight.com Bowl at Arizona Stadium. He earned the game’s Most Valuable Player award for his 75 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Thirteen of those rushes came in the fourth quarter when Arizona used ball possession to put the Lobos away.
The Arizona-ASU game Saturday brings to mind an incident involving Eafon in the 1996 game in which the Rose Bowl-bound Sun Devils routed the Wildcats 56-14 at Arizona Stadium. During the UA’s late-game interception return for a touchdown, ASU offensive linemen Glen Gable, far from the play, broke defensive lineman Daniel Greer’s ankle with an illegal blind-sided clip.
That sparked Eafon, who noticed the play and witnessed Tomey yelling at Gable, to sprint off the bench to knock down Gable. Eafon and Gable were ejected. The retaliation, although unfortunate, showed how much Eafon revered his teammates. Gable eventually sent a letter of apology to Greer.
Eafon concluded his UA career by scoring the go-ahead touchdown against Nebraska in the 1998 Holiday Bowl. It was his 16th rushing touchdown of the season, which ranks No. 2 on the Arizona charts behind Art Luppino’s 21 in 1954. When the Wildcats celebrated the 23-20 victory at midfield on a makeshift podium, Eafon grabbed the microphone and looked toward the Arizona marching band.
“Play my song,” he told them over the stadium’s public-address system.
The band responded with “Bear Down Arizona”.
Symbolic of being a badass, Eafon’s demands were met.
Eafon, who turns 37 on Nov. 18, is the junior-varsity basketball coach at St. Gregory’s High School, and he is active in Tucson youth athletic training and football and basketball camps as well as the Tucson Summer Pro Basketball League.
THE BADASS LIST
3. Rob Waldrop, defensive tackle (1990-93)
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)
3. Kelvin Eafon, tailback/fullback (1996-98)
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)