Former Arizona linebacker Ricky Hunley — chosen by TucsonCitizen.com as the best Wildcats football player ever — is back in college coaching.
Hunley will be the new defensive line coach at the University of Memphis, the school announced Wednesday.
Hunley has been active in public speaking and working camps since helping coach linebackers for the Oakland Raiders in 2011. He joins the coaching staff of Justin Fuente, who is 7-17 in two seasons with the Tigers.
“We are excited to welcome Ricky Hunley to the Memphis Football family,” Fuente said in a release.
“He has years of experience as a great player both in college and in the NFL, as well as experience coaching at both levels. I think he will do a wonderful job mentoring our kids both on and off the field. We look forward to him having a significant impact our program.”
Hunley, the first of four Wildcats to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, was a consensus All-American in 1982 and 1983, a three-time All-Pac-10 player and the seventh pick in the 1984 NFL Draft, the highest selection ever for a UA player.
After a seven-year NFL career, Hunley, 52, had assistant coaching stints under Larry Smith at Missouri (1994-2000), Steve Spurrier at Florida (2001) and the Washington Redskins (2002), and Marvin Lewis with the Cincinnati Bengals (2003-07).
He later spent two seasons coaching in the United Football League.
Hunley talked to TucsonCitizen.com this summer about the influence of Smith, who was his head coach at Arizona.
“When you think of Larry Smith, the first thing you think of is discipline,” Hunley said.
“He’s a guy who came out of the service academies, and he held you to a higher standard. There’s an old saying in coaching that I learned a long time ago: ‘Players will walk if you let them.’ And he was never one to let us walk. And none of his staff was like that.
“Larry always coached the coaches to coach his kids the same way he would do it — from a discipline standpoint and a being-responsible standpoint. He knew your teammates counted on you, and no one wants to go to battle with a guy you can’t count on.”
Hunley, whose home base is Los Angeles, was a frequent visitor to Tucson last season and he spoke to the team after a practice in fall camp.
His message to the Cats is likely the same he will be offering to the Tigers.
“Can you give me everything you’ve got for three to five seconds?” Hunley said. “If I can get you to do that play after play, we’ve got a great player. Now, if I can get the whole team to do that, it goes from a tidal wave to a tsunami.”