Twenty years ago, the Arizona Wildcats posted the best season in program history, going 12-1 and beating Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
Cornerback Kelvin Hunter was one of the key players on the UA's stout defense, finishing with 45 tackles and two interceptions. His 14 PBUs were one less than future NFL star Chris McAlister's 15.
“That season was special because we just had a bunch of guys that just loved to play football," he said. "We all grew as a team in the summer, we loved one another, we played for one another and we didn’t want to let each other down. It was just one of those types of seasons. If you made a mistake, you didn’t want to make that mistake again, because you didn’t want to let your brothers down. That’s what kind of team we were.”
Hunter was back in town Friday night, but he couldn't stay long. Hunter is the defensive coordinator at Gilbert Williams Field, which played at Marana. His boss, Williams Field coach Steve Campbell, is a former ASU quarterback.
The Star talked to Hunter about coaching, Dick Tomey’s philosophy and of course, this year's Wildcats. Here's what he had to say …
On Kevin Sumlin: “I never had a chance to formally sit down and talk to him, but I’m excited about the hire. From his past experiences on knowing how to recruit California and Texas, I think he’s going to do a great job.”
On coaching high school football in Phoenix: “I coached one year at McClintock High School with (Campbell), he played quarterback at ASU. (Chuckles) Some fun nights. And then he brought me over to Williams Field when he left McClintock. It’s coaches divided. You know like the house divided? Well it’s the coaches divided. … When we played against them in '97, he came in for (starter) Ryan Kealy.”
On whether he uses Tomey's lessons when coaching: “All the time. The way he cared for his players, man, he was a players' coach. Some of the philosophies he used to help me grow as a man, I still use when I’m coaching. Holding each other accountable and being hard on them, but still loving them at the same time. Any day and every day. I still use a lot of his quotes.”
On his favorite Tomey quote: “'Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.' They just come to my mind and I say them. I still use his quotes in our gameplan and everything.”
On his favorite memory Tomey memory: “When I broke my ankle in the bowl game in '97, he came to visit me and that right there showed how much he cared about me. That right there was just one of those defining moments. When the coach comes and checks on you to make sure you’re OK, that right there showed me he was down for me. For me, that changed my whole perspective because at that time, I was a mean knucklehead.”