No. 1 on the Offensive Arizona Wildcats Badass List: Jay Dobynsby Javier Morales on Nov. 19, 2011, under Sports
Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category
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“Every Saturday a kid who barely weighs 170 pounds dripping wet goes over the middle for us. I know this Jay is a tough, reckless, S.O.B. After games, he looks like he’s been run over by a train. I personally think he enjoys taking the defenses’ best shot just so he can get up and laugh at them.” – former UA coach Larry Smith, as quoted by the Arizona Daily Wildcat in 1984.
No. 1 JAY DOBYNS, wide receiver (1982-1984)
Most people know about Jay Dobyns as a badass off the football field as an undercover agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Dobyns was also every sense of the word while with the Wildcats.
Dobyns was a favorite target of quarterbacks Tom Tunnicliffe and Alfred Jenkins, especially over the middle of the field in traffic. Tunnicliffe and Jenkins knew that chances were if they threw in Dobyns’ direction, he had the hands and the toughness to secure the ball despite being defenseless against eager tacklers.
Dobyns also played hurt on many occasions. One time, after severely bruising a thigh, he was on crutches the day after the game. However the day after that, on Monday, he tried to jog off the pain. The coaches were amazed that Dobyns even tried to work his way back so fast. He was held out of the following week’s game as a precaution, much to his frustration.
“Jay was a leader on my teams,” the late Smith, Arizona’s coach from 1980-86, is quoted as saying on Dobyns’ Web site. “He is a leader in our community, and he was a one of those players that becomes special to a coach because he did everything asked of him to win.”
A Sahuaro High School grad, Dobyns played a year at Arkansas before transferring back to Tucson to play for his hometown team. He was a three-year starter. He became an All-Pac-10 honorable-mention selection in 1983 and 1984, and was named to the Arizona Daily Star’s All-Century team for Arizona as wide receiver in 1999.
In 1979 at Arizona Stadium, his spectacular touchdown catch in the back of the end zone, managing to keep his feet inbounds, proved to be the winning score against top-ranked UCLA.
Leo Banks of the Tucson Weekly aptly described Dobyns’ experience as a UA football player this way in a 2009 article:
He grows up mainly on Tucson’s eastside, loving football, loving the UA. On game days, he rides the bus from Speedway Boulevard and Camino Seco to campus to get his ticket. He dreams of one day playing on the same field, and the dream comes true. He starts for UA at wideout for three seasons in the early ’80s. Former teammate Glenn Howell says, “Nobody was going to outwork Jay. Man, he was a workout freak.”
When the gates to the field are locked, because it’s against the rules to practice, Dobyns and Howell hop the fence and go to work running routes. Dobyns isn’t fast, but he catches everything. If the quarterback throws the ball off the moon, he goes up and gets it. He wins all Pac-10 honorable mention his junior and senior years. “I didn’t have much raw talent, but I played like a maniac,” says Dobyns. “I had to if I wanted playing time. I threw fear out the window, played the hardest I could, and it carried over to ATF.”
Dobyns, alias Jaybird, became an ATF agent in 1987, only three years after playing his last game with the Wildcats. As a rookie agent only four days on the job, Dobyns was taken hostage in a sting operation and shot through the chest in the desert near Sahuarita. A year later, he was run over by gangsters in a getaway car.
Just like those safeties who failed to jar Dobyns with vicious tackles, the criminals could not stop him.
“Getting cheered by 80,000 football fans was an incredible feeling,” Dobyns writes in his New York Times best-seller, NO ANGEL: My Harrowing Undercover Journey To the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels. “But it didn’t even register when compared to the rush of walking the line between life and death when no one was watching.”
He gained international notoriety after he infiltrated the Hells Angels motorcycle club from 2001 to 2003. Dobyns was offered membership to the Hells Angels after faking the murder of a rival gang member and providing the fabricated evidence of the murder to Hells Angels leaders, convincing them of his credibility. Dobyns spent the majority of his ATF career working in varied assignments developing undercover expertise in violent crime investigation, narcotics, firearms, gang infiltrations, home invasion robbery cases, and murder-for-hire investigations.
He was an undercover agent in more than 500 operations and won 12 ATF “Special Act” awards for investigative excellence. In 2004, the National Association of Police Officers presented Dobyns the “Top Cop” award after his infiltration of Hell’s Angels that resulted in 43 felony arrests.
His tough-guy image with the shaved head, goatee and tattoos is a far cry from his surfer look while at Arizona.
“I kind of fell in love with my props,” Dobyns told Newsweek in a 2009 interview. “It became who I was. … (I miss) the rush of riding in a pack of gangsters at 85 miles per hour, only 18 inches apart. That’s a rush that even catching a pass in front of 70,000 people in a stadium can’t match.”
Dobyns, 50, is still affiliated with the ATF. He conducts motivational speeches as owner and representative of Jay Dobyns Group, LLC. He also serves as an assistant coach for the Salpointe Catholic football program.
When Lute Olson coached the UA men’s basketball team, he invited Dobyns to speak to his players.
“Jay Dobyns has spoken to my team and his message is inspirational,” Olson is quoted as saying by Dobyns’ Web site. “Our kids absolutely loved him. They thought he was one of the best speakers they have heard in all their years at the University of Arizona.
“His story is one of courage and heroism. You will be on the edge of your seats when you listen to Jay speak.”
THE BADASS LIST
1. Chuck Cecil, safety (1984-87)
2. Ricky Hunley, linebacker (1980-83)
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)
1. Jay Dobyns, wide receiver (1982-84)
2. Richard Dice, wide receiver (1993-96)
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)