UA All-American Chris McAlister, returning a kickoff for a touchdown against UCLA in 1996, says: "College in Arizona was awesome."

Sarah Prall / Arizona Daily Star 1996

Chris McAlister stood on the Arizona Stadium field this week, a few hundred feet below where his name hangs in the Wildcats' ring of honor.

"It never gets old looking up there," McAlister said. "There are a lot of great memories I have here. This is where I grew up. I started my adulthood here in Tucson. College in Arizona was awesome. The coaches I had at the time were awesome. The city was awesome.

"I have nothing but good things to say about Arizona and my time here."

The 36-year-old is back in Tucson this week and could end up spending even more time here next year.

The former UA All-America and All-Pro cornerback with the Baltimore Ravens is pursuing his undergraduate degree so he can eventually get into college coaching.

McAlister said he has about three semesters of school left. He'll begin his quest for a degree at a junior college in California with the credits transferring to the UA. Next year, however, he will likely return to Tucson for a couple of classes he has to take here.

He was at the UA this week to get his paperwork in order.

"I'll be a student all over again, but it will be a little different this time," McAlister said.

Yes it will.

McAlister won't be donning a Wildcats uniform and terrorizing Pac-10 teams every Saturday. Instead, he'll be just another student.

But on Tuesday, when he visited UA's practice, he wasn't just another student.

He was a former Super Bowl champion and UA fan checking in on his favorite college football team.

"I've seen a lot of his film," UA senior cornerback Shaquille Richardson said Wednesday. "He's a great player and I look up to him."

McAlister earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors three straight years from 1996 to 1998 and was a unanimous All-America selection in 1998. He was drafted 10th overall in the 1999 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens and played 11 seasons in the NFL.

His final season was 2009.

"The first year I was out of the league, I hardly watched football," McAlister said. "Then, in my second year, I started to watch. Now, I sit around like everyone else and watch it on TV all day."

He doesn't get to watch the Wildcats as much as he'd like because he doesn't get the Pac-12 Network as a DirecTV subscriber.

He still follows the team, though and checks in on how they're doing every week. His interest in the program may even increase now that he knows Rich Rodriguez.

McAlister and Rodriguez had never met before Tuesday.

"I think he's a great guy," McAlister said. "I think he's able to reach the kids and I think he's the guy that can turn this program around. He's got great facilities to start with this year. That might help kids and their attitude on how they approach things. You'd be surprised how a little change like this weight room will change the mentality of a player."

McAlister said he'll likely return to Tucson later this year for a home game or two. He toured the new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility on Tuesday and said he wants to spend more time there when he returns for a game.

Needless to say, he didn't have anything like that when he was a Wildcat.

"We were inside McKale," McAlister said. "It wasn't bad. At the time, I thought it was great. I didn't know what I was missing."

Extra points

• Vaughn Brinkman, a walk-on linebacker, who redshirted last season, quit the team this week.

He's the first player to leave the program this fall. He was expected to be a backup linebacker this season. He's originally from Post Falls, Wash.

• The Wildcats will practice this morning at Fort Huachuca at 8 a.m., and then again Friday morning and twice on Saturday.

The afternoon session on Saturday is scheduled to be a scrimmage, but Rodriguez said Wednesday he's not sure if he will actually go through with it, or just schedule a normal practice.

• The UA practiced in pads on Wednesday for the first time this fall camp.

"We didn't tackle well today when we went live," Rodriguez said. "So we have to fix that."

On StarNet: Keep up with the Cats during camp on Daniel Berk's blog at

Training camp: Day 5

At Arizona Stadium

• Temperature at start: 70 degrees and partly sunny at 6:30 a.m.

• Newcomer watch: San Diego native Devin Holiday has caught the eye of his teammates through five days of fall camp. Junior Jonathan McKnight said Holiday is off to a great start and has stood out the most of all the freshmen. Holiday was a three-star recruit. He also had offers from Cincinnati, Hawaii, Houston, New Mexico and San Diego State.

• The big number: 1: The Wildcats practiced in full pads for the first time Wednesday morning.

Key dates

• Saturday: Fort Huachuca scrimmage

• Aug. 17: Scrimmage on campus

• Aug. 23: Scrimmage on campus

• Aug. 30 (Friday): Season opener at Arizona Stadium vs. NAU, 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Arizona

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.