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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 4 Tedy Bruschi

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Defensive end, 1991-95

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Unanimous All-American in 1995, a consensus All-American in 1994 and a second-team AP All-American in 1993. … Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. … Earned first-team all-conference honors three times. … Tied the NCAA career sacks record with 52.

Why he made our list: Bruschi was the ultimate high-motor guy, a too-short, too-small, former marching-band-playing prospect out of Roseville, Calif.

UA immediately knew it had something special with the under-the-radar recruit, as Bruschi started his first game at UA in 1991, although he ended up taking a medical redshirt that season.

That worked out just fine.

After redshirting his freshman season, Bruschi put the joy into the Desert Swarm era with his exuberance and sack dances.

When he was a senior, the license plate on his 1967 Buick read, “SWARM.”

“He had such a tremendous first step and just made play after play,” former coach Dick Tomey told TucsonCitizen.com. “When he was making plays, he was like a bowl full of butcher knives.”

He was definitely dangerous. Bruschi, working in tandem with great defensive tackles such as Rob Waldrop, Jim Hoffman, Chuck Osborne and Joe Salave’a, had 74 career tackles for a loss.

“He was crazy fast off the edge,” said former Arizona player Heath Bray, a team captain in 1992. “It didn’t take a genius to see he had something special as a freshman.”

Bruschi set the school record with 19 sacks in 1993 and then had one more as he was selected the Defensive MVP of the 1994 Fiesta Bowl, when the Wildcats shut out Miami. Bruschi had with 21/2 sacks in his final regular-season game — UA’s 31-28 comeback win at Arizona State in 1995 — to tie Alabama’s Derrick Thomas for the NCAA career sacks record.

Bruschi’s tying sack came on the penultimate play of the game.

“I got a sack to tie the record in the last seconds of my college career, and we beat ASU. How do you beat that?” Bruschi was quoted as saying after the game. “Somebody asked me if I’ll remember this game when I’m a grandfather. I don’t think I’ll have to remember it because I’ll never forget it.”

Bruschi was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in May.

Life after college: The Patriots drafted Bruschi as a linebacker Bruschi was undersized for an NFL defensive end, but the Patriots recognized his potential as a linebacker, drafting him in the third round, No. 86 overall, in 1996. He played in five Super Bowls, winning three, and his charisma and smile played as well in New England as it did in Tucson, as he become an all-time fan favorite.

He played 13 seasons with the Patriots, starting 139 of his 189 games. Bruschi was a second-team All-NFL selection by the Associated Press in 2003 and 2004 and was chosen to the Pro Bowl after the 2004 season.

By his own admission, the play that stands out in his NFL career came on a snowy December day in 2003 against the Miami Dolphins. With the Patriots up 3-0 in the fourth quarter and Miami at its 5, Bruschi intercepted a Jay Fieldler pass and returned it for a touchdown, sliding through the end zone on his knees.

Beyond his play, Bruschi became an inspiration when he returned from a mild stroke suffered a few days after the Pro Bowl. He needed surgery to repair a hole in his heart but returned to the field in 2005, sharing the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award.

Bruschi is active in the New England community through several pursuits, including Tedy’s Team, which benefits the American Stroke Association. He joined ESPN as an analyst after his retirement in August 2009.

The Patriots inducted him into their Hall of Fame this summer.

In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top five 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

No. 10 — Lance Briggs

No. 9 — Byron Evans

No. 8 — Darryll Lewis

No. 7 — Joe Tofflemire

No. 6 — Chris McAlister

No. 5 — Art Luppino

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