Position, years at Arizona: Offensive tackle, 1987-1991
Honors, accomplishments at UA: Earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors in 1991.
Why he made our list: Fina was one of the few bright spots for Arizona in 1991, as the team’s 4-7 record — its first losing season since 1980 — hurt his chances to earn greater postseason honors. He mentored a young, injury-plagued offensive line that season, so his impact was felt through the better seasons that immediately followed.
Fina combined intelligence and skill as well as anybody to come through the program, earning academic all-conference honors three times and building himself from a lightly recruited local kid from Salpointe Catholic High who redshirted as a freshman defensive lineman in 1987. His scout-team work included being a tight end who ended up as practice fodder for star linebackers Chris and Kevin Singleton.
“I would have to full-speed block the Singletons. And they would just stand me up and throw me down,” Fina said in 1991. “Every day in full pads I had to go out there. They would just smack me and throw me down. It was a way to come of age. I can never forget that.”
He played on the defensive line in 1988, making 11 tackles, before finding a home at offensive tackle in spring 1989, although he continued to dabble as a defensive tackle in goal-line situations.
“He was very, very bright,” UA teammate Heath Bray told TucsonCitizen.com. “In his senior year he dominated. When the NFL came calling, they recognized that the intangibles he had, as well as his physical skills, were going to be perfect for a wonderful NFL career, which is exactly what he had.”
Given Fina’s on-field accomplishments, his academic record, leadership and community service, then-Arizona offensive-line coach Pat Hill said in 1991: “If my sons could grow up to be like John Fina, I’d be really happy.”
Life after college: Fina was a first-round pick by Buffalo in 1992 (No. 27 overall) and played in the NFL for 11 seasons, making him one of the more successful Wildcats at the next level. He played 10 seasons with the Bills, starting 131 games at left tackle and spending five of those years on the same starting line as former Wildcats guard Glenn Parker. Fina finished his career with seven games with the Cardinals in 2002. Fina was on the Bills’ Super Bowl teams after the 1992 and 1993 seasons, with Buffalo losing both times to the Dallas Cowboys.
Fina, who lives in Tucson, has served as a game analyst for college and high school football for Fox Sports Arizona, and is a motivational speaker. He counts cooking among his varied pursuits and was a guest judge on “Food Wars” when the Travel Channel program came to Tucson in 2010 to find the best Sonoran hot dog.
In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.
No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley
No. 49 — Hubie Oliver
No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski
No. 47 — Jim Donarski
No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter
No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin