Before Saturday's UA-Toledo game, Bill Hussey, right, worked the grill while Graeme Hughes readied the dogs for diners at the tailgate that LaMonte Hunley and Sam Ross have been hosting near Arizona Stadium for 12 years.

KELLY PRESNELL / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

LaMonte Hunley and Sam Ross bring truth to the saying: once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.

The former football standouts for the University of Arizona have been hosting large tailgates for families and friends near the UA Mall going on 12 years strong. This Saturday's matchup against Oklahoma State is no exception.

"It's kind of a place where you come back and know that we will be out there," said Ross, who was an offensive guard for the Wildcats from 1989 to 1992. "Everybody that's alumni, no matter where they went, they can always come hang out."

It's not unusual for upwards of 150 people to stop by, socialize and share a drink on any given game day.

Going beyond your average brats and beer, each tailgate has a theme, ranging from all-American to seafood. One of the most popular themes is soul food.

"We do ribs and macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice, and fried chicken," said Ross.

Hunley and Ross strive to create a comfortable and welcoming environment, they said.

"A person like myself, or some of the other people who have been doing this for so long, we just show up and have a nice cold drink in our hand and wait for kickoff," said Hunley, a former All-Pac-10 linebacker under Coach Larry Smith from 1981-84.

LaMonte Hunley

• The menu: Hunley considers fried catfish his speciality, which he prepares and fries on site.

• His football career: Wearing number 98, Hunley played for the Wildcats as a linebacker from 1981 to 1984.

• Post-football: The 49- year-old is co-owner of Arizona Health, which specializes in residential and commercial exercise equipment. He lives in Tucson with his wife Stephanie and their daughters Kendra, 20, and Devyn, 13.

• Season predictions: "I'm pretty excited about what I've seen so far at this point, and the level of enthusiasm that there is for the game. We are going to see a fast-paced football game, you know. We aren't going to see guys that are loafing on the field. When you get a team concept like that, things are prone to happen in your favor."

Sam Ross

• The menu: Ross' go-to recipe is his specialty ribs, which he also cooks on site. "Everything is made there fresh," he said. "That's one of the good things about it, a little bit different."

• His football career: Wearing number 52, Ross, 41, played for the Wildcats as an offensive guard from 1989 to 1992.

• Post-football: Ross is the national account executive for Prudential Overall Supply and is tournament director for the Arizona Kickoff Classic, a youth football tournament held Labor Day Weekend. He lives in Tucson with his four children Raja, 18; Sam Jr., 15; Asia, 12; and Sasha, 9.

• Season predictions: "I'm very excited. With Rich Rod (Coach Rich Rodriguez) being there, I think we are going to see a lot of excitement and we aren't going to leave at halftime now. He is very sociable, so he makes sure he embraces us. You have a lot of alumni who want to embrace the program, but prior we couldn't really do that because from the top, there wasn't that culture."

Grill like LaMonte Hunley and Sam Ross

BBQ Ribs

For the rub:

• 1/2 ounce of red pepper.

• 1.2 ounces of lemon pepper.

• 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.

• 1/2 ounce of garlic salt.

• 1/2 ounce of seasoning salt.

• 2 teaspoons of paprika.

• 1 teaspoon of onion powder.

• 1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper.

• 1 ounce of cayenne.

• 1 ounce of sugar.

• 1 teaspoon of chili powder.

• 2 ounces of brown sugar.

For the sauce:

• Two 40-ounce bottles of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce.

• 2 ounces of mustard.

• 2 teaspoon of Louisiana hot sauce.

• 1 ounce of lemon juice.

• 1 ounce of brown sugar as needed to taste.

•1 ounce of Worcestershire sauce.

Mix the rub ingredients by hand then rub the ribs in the dry mixture, being sure to coat the meat thoroughly. Store ribs in airtight container in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Grill ribs over charcoal for three to four hours until meat is falling off the bone tender.

Let cool and apply barbecue sauce.

Cut ribs and serve.

Fried Catfish

• 4 pounds catfish fillets.

• 3 cups of yellow cornmeal.

• 1/2 cup milk.

• 2 tablespoons each of seasoning salt, garlic salt, cayenne pepper and fresh ground pepper.

Dip catfish fillets in a bath of milk mixed with the seasonings.

Deep fry fish in approximately a liter of peanut oil heated to 355 degrees until fillets float to the top.

Pat dry with a paper towel.

Recipes courtesy Sam Ross

Samantha Cummings is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com or 573-4117.