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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 10 Lance Briggs

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Linebacker, 1999-2002

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Was a three-time first-team All-Pac-10 linebacker, from 2000 to 2002. … Led the Wildcats in tackles all three seasons. … Had a combined 24 1/2 tackles for a loss in his final two seasons.

Why he made our list: Dick Tomey won a tough recruiting battle for Briggs, from Sacramento.

“He was one of those guys USC didn’t let up on,” Tomey said. “They tried really hard on him, and there weren’t many of those kind of recruiting battles we won.”

Briggs was a fullback for his first season — “he and I still laugh about that,” Tomey said — and he would have been very good on that side of the ball, but it was the move to middle linebacker that launched his legendary UA career.

He had 16 tackles against Utah in his first game at linebacker in 2000 and went on to earn first-team all-conference honors in his initial year at the position, making 113 tackles. He would go on to become a rare bright spot during the rough first two seasons of coach John Mackovic’s reign at UA. (Briggs was a main supporter of a players’ revolt against Mackovic late in the 2002 season, as the players complained to the school president about the coach’s conduct toward them.)

Mackovic once noted that Briggs was the fastest linebacker he had ever coached.

“He was a tremendous leader when I was there, even though he was a young player,” said Tomey, who was forced out after the 2000 season. “I hated to miss the rest of his career.”

Briggs finished with 35 1/2 tackles for a loss, 10 1/2 sacks, four interceptions, 10 pass break-ups, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Life after college: The Chicago Bears selected Briggs in the 2003 third round, No. 68 overall, and he has gone on to become the most-accomplished NFL player from UA. He was chosen to seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 2005 to 2011.

Briggs, 32, is entering his 11th season with the Bears, the first without now-retired Brian Urlacher beside him at linebacker. Because of that, Briggs will be taking on a larger leadership role this season, a role to which he is naturally suited.

He has started 153 of the 156 games in which he has played, making 1,072 tackles and intercepting 15 passes, with five returned for touchdowns.

Briggs — who often comes back to UA in the offseason — is always busy off the field, hosting youth football camps (including in Tucson) and is active in the community through his foundation, Briggs4Kidz.

That’s just a partial accounting of his diverse pursuits. The words on the front page of his website — Lance-Briggs.com — read like this: FATHER. COMMENTATOR. PHILANTHROPIST. COOKING ENTHUSIAST. COMIC BOOK WRITER. BEAR.

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.

Arizona’s top 50

No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley

No. 49 — Hubie Oliver

No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski

No. 47 — Jim Donarski

No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter

No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin

No. 44 — John Fina

No. 43 — Glenn Parker

No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson

No. 41 — Marcus Bell

No. 40 — Fred W. Enke

No. 39 — Ka’Deem Carey

No. 38 — Juron Criner

No. 37 — Dana Wells

No. 36 — Tom Tunnicliffe

No. 35 — Bruce Hill

No. 34 — Chuck Osborne

No. 33 — Brandon Sanders

No. 32 — Sean Harris

No. 31 — Mike Thomas

No. 30 — Bobby Wade

No. 29 — T Bell

No. 28 — Joe Salave’a

No. 27 — Eddie Wilson

No. 26 — Chuck Levy

No. 25 — Allan Durden

No. 24 — Nick Foles

No. 23 — Tony Bouie

No. 22 — ‘King Kong’ Nolan

No. 21 — Bill Lueck

No. 20 — Walter “Hoss” Nielsen

No. 19 — Trung Canidate

No. 18 — Mark Arneson

No. 17 — Chris Singleton

No. 16 — Mike Dawson

No. 15 — Max Zendejas

No. 14 — Dennis Northcutt

No. 13 — Jackie Wallace

No. 12 — Antoine Cason

No. 11 — Vance Johnson

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