Arizona's Nick Johnson strips the ball from Washington's Aziz N'Diaye during the first half as Kaleb Tarczewski defends from behind. Arizona coach Sean Miller later minced no words: "Nick's an elite defender."


On game days at Arizona Stadium. Cory Elmore sits in Section 108, but sitting is neither an accurate description nor his best position.

"It's pretty intense; I get a lot of looks," he says. "Sometimes I just freak out."

Sometimes he pictures himself in his old Arizona jersey, No. 72, rushing the quarterback, delivering a sack at precisely the moment his twin brother, Ricky, arrives from the other end.

"I'll go low, and Ricky will go high," Cory Elmore says, smiling. "And then we'll both jump up and celebrate. I do miss that; it's kind of hard to watch Ricky sometimes."

Cory Elmore is 22 now, two months shy of earning his UA degree in family studies, and he is sculpted like a movie superhero: 6feet 5inches, 235pounds. "I have 8 percent body fat," he says. "I've never been in better shape."

But Cory Elmore has never played a down of college football.

In 2009, Ricky Elmore led the Pac-10 in regular-season sacks, building a portfolio that could lead to a career in pro football, but his twin brother is working on his fourth season without football.

Both seem to have found happiness in their unplanned separation from UA football.

Early last month, Cory finished third in the Arizona Natural Classic, part of the Organization of Professional Body Builders competition. He works two nights at a local nightclub, coaches youth football and, he says, "has been killing it" in the classroom, building a 3.5 GPA over the last two years.

"Not playing football took a lot of adjustment, but it has worked out," Cory says. "I'm not one to be bitter or depressed. I've got too much to do."

In the summer of 2007, after his first season at Arizona, Cory underwent open heart surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. During a routine checkup, doctors discovered an atrial septal defect - a hole in Cory's heart.

"One doctor said I would be fine, and I could continue playing football," he remembers. "Another doctor said, given the stress and abuse a football player's body takes, that I could die if I kept playing. So, OK, I was done with football. My father died of a heart problem when Ricky and I were 7. It wasn't much of a decision."

The once-inseparable Elmore twins struggled with their football separation. They had arrived from Simi Valley, Calif., at Arizona in the fall of 2006, a package deal, after declining scholarship offers from, among others, Oregon and Wyoming.

For the first time in 12 years, when Ricky would go to football practice, Cory would go home to their shared apartment. Down time was often just that: time to be down. When Ricky would sit in the UA's team hotel on game days, Cory would help coach the Tucson Chargers, a Junior Pee Wee football team.

"It was hard for Cory to start a new life," Ricky says. "My family was very concerned. It was a nerve-racking time for all of us, but he loves what he's doing now. He misses football, but he has come to peace with that part of his life."

If their college adventure has done one thing successfully, it has inevitably provided the Elmore twins with separate identities. Ricky is the star defensive end. Cory is a budding Mr. Olympia.

Given Cory's success as a body builder, there is no he's-the-unlucky-guy-with-a-bad-ticker routine. When he joins the football team for post-game locker room celebrations, he is more likely to hear "hey, flex for us" or even "show us your abs."

"A lot of the freshmen and sophomores didn't even know Ricky had a twin," he says. "One day at McKale Center a guy did a double-take and yelled down the corridor, 'Hey, Ricky Elmore has an identical twin!' I still feel part of the team, but obviously I'm not. I haven't played football for a long time, but that's OK. I feel blessed."

The Elmore twins were part of a remarkably strong recruiting class of 2006, one that included Earl Mitchell, Cam Nelson, Brooks Reed, Terrell Turner, Colin Baxter and Lolomana Mikaele.

It is the group that has changed Arizona's identity from losers to winners. Similarly, the Elmore brothers will complete their UA days - Ricky has just one class this semester and will graduate with Cory in December - having won a lot more in life than in football .

Cory hopes to mentor teenagers and, if he can put the parts together, open a training facility in Tucson at which he would provide physical training, academic support and life-skills tutoring. He is world-class ambitious.

"I've got so much going on in my head," he says with a laugh. "I would like to start a winter football league for Tucson kids, pre-high school kids. It would fill a void. There's nothing like that here right now. It's something I would regret if I don't get it done."

Sometimes, on Saturday mornings, the Elmore brothers will flip their roles. Ricky will watch as Cory coaches the Tucson Chargers.

"It makes me so proud to watch him with those kids," Ricky says. "Almost none of them are much taller than Cory's hips. But he gets down there in a three-point stance, teaching football, making an impact on the kids. He has a passion for everything he does."

Up next

• Who: Oregon State at Arizona

• When: 4 p.m. Oct.9

• TV: Versus

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or