The Arizona Wildcats head into a long, hot summer of informal football workouts, with the words of Tedy Bruschi pushing, prodding, inspiring them forward.
Bruschi, as part of alumni weekend, was one of the former Arizona players who talked to the team Friday, delivering a fiery speech that hit on the theme of “football truth.”
“He had everybody on the edge of their seat,” said coach Rich Rodriguez. “More than half of them were scared.”
With the natural passion of one of his sack dances from 20 years ago and the communication skills honed as an ESPN announcer since his retirement from the New England Patriots before the 2009 season, Bruschi challenged the Wildcats to be great, pointing to every player in the room, linebacker Jake Fischer said.
“It was like you were sitting in the middle of a movie and someone is doing that amazing pregame speech that is scripted. But, yeah, he came in there with nothing scripted. He just came in,” Fischer said.
“At first, he was getting himself riled up just because he was talking about how he used to play here and how he used to be so good, but no one gave him respect and he was always fighting for that respect, always trying to prove people wrong.
“And he came back again and was all riled up again. He was like, ‘I never want to see any of you guys lay down in the fourth quarter,’ and he went off,” Fischer continued.
“One thing he harped on was that football is unlike anything else, because it tells you the truth every play. It will tell you whether or not you worked hard enough to make the tackle, whether or not you worked hard enough to make the catch. It tells you the truth every play. It’s not forgiving.
“It was awesome. Awesome. He was at the top of his lungs. You look around and you could tell by the look in some of the guys’ eyes, they were like ‘Holy, sh–.’”
When it was over, some players took to Twitter using the hashtag #footballtruth.
“When he walked out of there, we were like, ‘Let’s go. When’s the kickoff?’” Rodriguez said.
“His legendary intensity showed up. I texted him afterward and told him, ‘It was classic and it was perfect.’ It was the perfect message for our guys leading to the summer. Fantastic.”
Arizona wrapped up spring ball Saturday a day after a who’s-who of Wildcats celebrated the upcoming 75th birthday of former UA coach Dick Tomey. Bruschi and Lance Briggs — who both played for Tomey and are two of the most accomplished NFL players among former Wildcats — were among those who addressed the team.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Shadow Williams, who said the current group of linebackers watches “old-school tape” of the Desert Swarm days, said Bruschi’s message will stick with him all summer.
“It got me so pumped up,” Williams said.
“I wanted to play football, strap up right then. I thought he was just going to go in there and talk and be the normal guy who is on ESPN. Nah, he was the real Tedy Bruschi. I got goosebumps listening to his speech. It was definitely cool. I can’t even wait to get started for next year.”
The shame of it is, Rodriguez said, is that the nobody filmed Bruschi’s speech.
“I’m regretting it,” Rodriguez said, “because I would be playing it quite a bit this fall.”
Just another reason to bring back Bruschi to Tucson next spring.