Many football programs have plays that live in the hearts and minds of their alumni and fans. At Texas, it’s Vince Young’s game-winning touchdown in the 2006 Rose Bowl. At LSU, it’s the so-called “Bluegrass Miracle.” And at Arizona, I think we can all agree, it is my hubby Chuck Cecil’s iconic interception of ASU quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst — and his ensuing 106-yard dash to the end zone — during the 1986 rivalry game. Van Raaphorst had driven undefeated ASU to Arizona’s 5-yard line. On third-and-goal, he scrambled, got pressured and launched the ball. Then Chuck made history, giving the Wildcats a 31-10 lead in a game they would eventually win 34-17.
Time has flown by, yet it still feels as if it was yesterday. I was there. So was my older brother, Jeff Gerlach, who was also a UA student and die-hard Wildcat fan. Jeff will be with me again this Saturday, along with his two daughters, Reilly and Brooke, both of whom are now UA students. We remember looking at Chuck, completely focused and pacing the sidelines as ASU rival fans threw fruit and other things at him. He cracked his neck — the same way he does now — as if it magically silenced the jeers from the Devils who hated him for his consistent disruption of their offense. It all made me smile. It still does.
I reached out to a couple of Chuck’s friends, fellow Wildcats and College Football Hall of Fame Inductees this week to get their thoughts about the famous play.
“At the time, I was a freshman in high school in Phoenix and most everyone was experiencing Sun Devil mania,” Rob Waldrop said. “But when Chuck picked that pass and ran it back all the way to seal the game, it was the ultimate kiss-off to ASU, Van Raaphorst, their fans, and their Rose Bowl season.”
Tedy Bruschi told me that “the interception wasn’t good enough for Chuck; he wanted it all.”
I laughed looking at the film now. I told Bruschi that Chuck runs a little like Forrest Gump at lightning speed.
“Yes,” Bruschi said. “He was a touch stiff.”
Ricky Hunley summed it up: “The 106-yard interception return for a TD by Chuck was without a doubt the greatest defensive play in Arizona history. On that day Chuck ‘Beared Down’ and made it happen.”
I talked to Chuck about the play Monday night as he got ready for bed. True to form, he deflected a lot of the credit.
Defensive tackles George Hinkle and Stan Mataele pressure Van Raaphorst, forcing him to throw the ball.
“The unsung hero in that game is a short linebacker named Brent Wood. People don’t realize that,” Chuck said. He squeezed toothpaste onto his toothbrush.
“Two linemen pressured Jeff, he panicked, and slung it,” he added. “Wood jumped and tipped it and I caught it behind him. I took off while a bunch of our guys blocked for me. It was true teamwork. People forget that.”
He pointed his toothbrush at me with a mouth full of white foam.
“If Woods is an inch or two taller, that play isn’t about me,” he said. “Funny how God works.”
We’ll spend Wednesday at the Gospel Rescue Mission’s 30th Annual Thanksgiving Street Banquet, where we’ll serve turkeys, pies and all of the trimmings to men, women and kids who need a little extra love this week.
The Cecils are proud to join with Roy Tullgren, the Mission’s executive director and pastor, to serve over 6,000 meals brimming over in turkey, stuffing and kindness before Thanksgiving. We have been blessed this season to share time with the beautiful women and children who call the Mission a place of hope and restoration. Their faces are a blend of God’s remarkable tapestry, and the stories behind how they got to the Mission are complicated. Despite the obstacles in these women’s lives, they choose to keep trying, healing and growing — and I’m so supportive of what the Mission does to help them in their journey. We are proud to be a part of the Tucson community as it rallies around all of its members.
Looking for ways to give back as we head into the holiday season? The Gospel Rescue Mission provides the necessities of life to those in need. Whether it’s clothes, toys, volunteering your time. Please contact: www.grmtucson.com.
If you need a warm meal on Wednesday, The Mission’s Thanksgiving Street Banquet event is being held in front of the Men’s Center at 312 W. 28th St. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
During the holidays, social media gives us an incredible opportunity to spread joy across the digital world.
I challenge my students, athletes — and even coaches — to create a social-giving campaign for incentive or extra credit. For example, I’ll ask my social networking users to put up one “gratitude post” per day over their holiday break. Be it a sunset or smile, acknowledging and sharing goodness across social networking can create legions of positive posters. Want ideas of how to use social media for good? Email me at email@example.com