Ironwood Ridge High School graduate Tyler D’Amore knew his hometown Arizona Wildcats needed quarterbacks. There was no harm in dropping off his game film with new coach Rich Rodriguez.
Good move. Rodriguez called D’Amore and invited him to walk-on.
D’Amore — who was one of the area’s top quarterbacks from 2008 to 2010 before spending last season in junior college — told TucsonCitizen.com he will start classes at Arizona on Wednesday and go through spring ball with the Cats.
As it stands now, after the transfers of Tom Savage and Daxx Garman, D’Amore will be working behind the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, senior Matt Scott.
“He said, ‘Play well and we’ll see about a scholarship,’” D’Amore said of Rodriguez.
D’Amore was noted for his running ability as well as his arm at Ironwood Ridge, where he was a three-year starter and a standout basketball player. He was TucsonCitizen.com’s Player of the Year in Southern Arizona for Class 5A-II as a senior.
He grew up playing football with Arizona sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey and was a high school teammate of UA junior linebacker Jake Fischer.
“I have always wanted to play for Arizona,” D’Amore said. “Growing up, we went to every single game, and I love the town and I love the atmosphere.”
D’Amore (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) attended the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, Calif., last semester. As a true freshman, he played behind sophomore Chris Rini, appearing in seven games. He said it’s rare to play as a true freshman quarterback in that program.
D’Amore completed 31 of 55 passes for 311 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. He ran 26 times for 68 yards and two scores.
He said the coaches there liked him as a runner, having D’Amore run the kind of read-option plays that are the cornerstone of Rodriguez’s offense.
“I feel like I can fit that system pretty well,” D’Amore said.
“We ran a hurry-up offense, which I really like. We tried to average 80 plays a game.”
As a senior at Ironwood Ridge, he did more pocket passing than running, completing 205 of 297 passes for 2,842 yards, with 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The Nighthawks reached the 2010 state semifinals in 5A-II.
D’Amore said he had some scholarship offers after this season from teams in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), but couldn’t pass up the opportunity at Arizona.
“I sat in with Coach Rodriguez, and he said he’s really excited to have me there,” D’Amore said. “The coaches there are good guys. The atmosphere down there, everyone is really excited.”
Arizona had two high school quarterbacks committed in this recruiting class — Nate Sudfeld from Modesto, Calif., and Josh Kern from San Antonio — although both decided to also explore other options when coach Mike Stoops was fired at midseason.
Sudfeld de-committed last week but did not rule out the Cats. Kern is expected to take an official recruiting visit this weekend.