Greg Hansen: UA's Tedy Bruschi elected to shrine

'Passion' helps Bruschi become 4th Wildcat named to college shrine
2013-05-07T00:00:00Z 2013-05-07T10:51:07Z Greg Hansen: UA's Tedy Bruschi elected to shrineGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The way it used to work in college football, before You Tube and video-on-demand, a high school coach would mail taped highlights of an under-the-radar player with a hand-written note that would say something like, "This kid may not be big, but he's all heart.''

You didn't send those letters to USC or UCLA. You sent them to Arizona and Wazzu.

That's what Roseville (Calif.) High coach Bob Jellison did in the winter of 1989-90. "You've gotta watch this kid Bruschi," he wrote. "Biggest heart you ever saw."

UA coach Dick Tomey was a sucker for kids who played hard. He referred to them as players with "great motors." Tomey knew that a note from someone like Jellison, whose Roseville High School Tigers had won the vast Sac-Joaquin section championship in 1987, merited attention.

Tomey dispatched receivers coach Marc Lunsford to check it out; Lunsford would get as much mileage as he could on the recruiting trip. He would go to nearby Placer High and successfully recruit linebacker Chris Lopez, a future four-year UA letterman. And he would go to Sacramento City College and land pass-rusher Akil Jackson, a future two-year Wildcat starter.

Tedy Bruschi would be next.

"You don't go on these visits looking for Hall of Famers," Lunsford said Monday. "But you never know, do you?''

Lunsford, as Tomey, was taken by Bruschi's motor.

"I saw him at a wrestling match his junior year, and I went back in the spring and watched him throw the discus in a track meet," Lunsford recalls. "He had that passion about everything. Coach Tomey had told us, 'Find someone with a burning desire to succeed and when you find that guy, don't worry about this size.' Tedy was relentless, but there still wasn't a lot of interest because of his size."

Bruschi had one request before becoming a Wildcat on Jan. 30, 1991. He wanted to wear his high school jersey number, 68.

No problem there. Nobody requests No. 68.

"It's pretty funny," Lunsford remembers. "Now Tedy will take No. 68 with him into the Hall of Fame. It's a great story."

This morning in New York City, Tedy Ballgame will be introduced as one of the 12 members of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame's Class of 2013.

It took Bruschi four years to climb the ballot process and survive a the wickedly difficult voting scrutiny - 77 former consensus All-Americans were on this year's ballot - but you can also say it is an honor somewhat overdue.

"I talked to Tedy last week and he was ecstatic,'' said Tucson attorney Burt Kinerk, a past president of the Southern Arizona Chapter of the College Hall of Fame.

"He'll be representing the class in New York City, at NASDAQ headquarters in Times Square."

The announcement will be made today at 8:30 a.m., Tucson time. It can be seen on footballfoundation.org.

Bruschi becomes the fourth Wildcat elected to the Hall of Fame in 16 years. Linebacker Ricky Hunley was inducted in 1997, safety Chuck Cecil in 2009 and nose tackle Rob Waldrop in 2011.

How's that for a Mount Rushmore of Arizona football?

Since its inception in 1995, led by men such as Kinerk, Mike Lude, Joe Kearney, Ted Schmidt and current president Rick Gonzales, the Southern Arizona Chapter of the Hall of Fame has been diligent and unusually successful in pursuing election for leading Wildcat football players.

On the day Bruschi committed to Arizona, 22 years ago, Jellison said: "He can do just about anything. He's real intense. It's not something you can teach. He's had it since Day 1."

At Arizona, Bruschi tied the NCAA career record for quarterback sacks, 52. Then a defensive end, he was at the heart of Desert Swarm, a defense that put UA football on the map. He was 6-1, 225 as a freshman in 1991, but set himself apart on the first day of drills at Camp Cochise.

"Bruschi was as good as anyone we had on the field today," Tomey said at Camp Cochise in August 1991. "On film last year, he played harder than anyone we saw in high school football."

Reporters at Camp Cochise near Douglas consulted the roster sheet for the correct spelling.

How do you pronounce it, Tomey was asked?

"If he keeps playing like this," Tomey said, laughing, "any way he wants it."

Bruschi might've stayed near home, in Northern California, and played for Nevada or San Jose State, but he chose Arizona, Lunsford remembers, because he wanted to play against the local schools who had judged him to be too small.

"He didn't big-time anybody, then or now," said Lunsford, who spent time with Bruschi during the UA Football Alumni Weekend/Spring Game festivities last month. "He was as popular in the locker room here as I ever remember."

In 13 years with New England , Bruschi helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls at linebacker.

During that period, after a 2002 pre-season game against Carolina, I walked into the Patriots' Foxboro, Mass., locker room. It was almost 12:30 a.m., and Bruschi had spent extended time in the training room, getting treatment for a knee injury.

I waited with about 10 reporters near his locker stall. Finally, after deadline had long passed, Bruschi returned. He stepped through the group of writers, shook my hand and pointed to the top of his locker.

It was an Arizona cap.

He'll take that with him to the Hall of Fame, too.

On StarNet: See more photos of former UA great Tedy Bruschi at azstarnet.com/gallery

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @ghansen711

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