The second half of the NFL season is officially in full swing, and Tucson natives and former Arizona Wildcats dot NFL rosters throughout the league.
Here’s a player-by-player rundown of Tucson natives and ex-Cats in the NFL — and which team they’re playing next:
Blake Martinez, LB, New York Giants
Tucson connection: Martinez is a graduate of Canyon del Oro High School.
The rundown: Martinez is in his second year of his three-year, $30.7 million contract in New York, but the Giants’ defensive captain is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in September. Martinez will make a base salary of $8.4 million in 2022.
Up next: Giants at Buccaneers, 6:15 p.m. Monday.
Levi Wallace, CB, Buffalo Bills
Tucson connection: Wallace is a graduate of Tucson High.
The rundown: Wallace, an Alabama product, has emerged as the Bills’ complementary cornerback opposite of Pro Bowler Tre’Davious White. Over nine, Wallace has 33 tackles and two interceptions.
Up next: Bills vs. Colts, Sunday, 11 a.m. Sunday
Gary Brightwell, RB, New York Giants
Tucson connection: Brightwell is a former UA running back.
The rundown: Brightwell, a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft, has one carry for four yards in two games.
Up next: Giants at Buccaneers, 6:15 p.m. Monday
Dane Cruikshank, CB, Tennessee Titans
Tucson connection: Cruikshank is a former member of the Wildcats’ secondary.
The rundown: The special teams contributor suffered a knee injury last week and is expected to miss the next two games. Cruikshank has 32 tackles and a pass deflection this season.
Up next: Titans vs. Texans, 11 a.m. Sunday
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tucson connection: Gronkowski is a former Wildcats star.
The rundown: Following an offseason that included setting a world record for catching a football dropped over 600 feet from a helicopter at Arizona Stadium, Gronkowski returned to Tampa Bay as the Bucs look to defend their Super Bowl. “Gronk” suffered a rib injury Week 3 against the Rams. “I’ve never been shot but that’s how I felt,” told reporters. Gronkowski has 16 catches for 184 yards and four touchdowns this season. He’s returning to Tampa Bay’s lineup this week.
Up next: Buccaneers vs. Giants, 6:15 p.m. Monday
J.J. Taylor, RB, New England Patriots
Tucson connection: Taylor is a former UA running back.
The rundown: In five games this season, Taylor has 37 yards on 19 carries. His season-high was a 21-yard, two-touchdown performance against the New York Jets.
Up next: Patriots vs. Titans, 11 a.m. on Nov. 28.
Nick Foles, QB, Chicago Bears
Tucson connection: Foles is the Wildcats’ all-time leading passer.
The rundown: The Super Bowl MVP is Chicago’s third-string quarterback behind the rookie Justin Fields and the veteran Andy Dalton. Foles has one more season on his three-year, $24 million contract with the Bears.
Up next: Bears vs. Ravens, 11 a.m. Sunday
Nick Folk, K, New England Patriots
Tucson connection: Folk is a former Arizona Wildcats placekicker.
The rundown: Folk was the difference-maker for the Pats in Thursday night’s 25-0 win over the Falcons, as the former UA kicker was 4 for 4 in field goals and was 1 for 2 in PATs — 13 points. Folk is a 4 for 6 from over 50 yards; he’s made at least one 50-yard field goal in every season he’s played in the NFL since 2007.
Up next: Patriots vs. Titans, 11 a.m. on Nov. 28.
Roy Lopez, DT, Houston Texans
Tucson connection: Lopez is a former Wildcats defensive lineman whose father, also named Roy, is the former head football coach at Sunnyside High School.
The rundown: Lopez, a rookie backup to defensive tackle behind DeMarcus Walker, has 14 tackles. He recorded his first sack the Texans’ Nov. 7 game against the Miami Dolphins.
Up next: Texans vs. Titans, 11 a.m. Sunday.
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Tucson connection: Flannigan-Fowles attended Tucson High and Mountain View High School and played at the UA.
The rundown: The linebacker-safety hybrid has eight tackles as the backup “Sam” linebacker behind Azeez Al-Shaair.
Up next: 49ers vs. Jaguars, 11 a.m. Sunday.
Lorenzo Burns, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Tucson connection: Burns is a former UA cornerback.
The rundown: Burns was waived by the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent and has signed with the Jaguars’ practice squad.
Up next: Jaguars vs 49ers, 11 a.m. Sunday.
Matt Bushman, TE Las Vegas Raiders
Tucson connection: Bushman is a Sabino High School graduate.
The rundown: The former BYU star signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent. Bushman was activated to the Raiders’ active roster in October.
Up next: Raiders vs. Bengals, 2:05 p.m. Sunday.
P.J. Johnson, DT, Las Vegas Raiders
Tucson connection: Johnson is a former UA defensive tackle
The rundown: Johnson was waived by the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, but signed with the Raiders earlier this week. Johnson is listed at 6 feet 4 inches and 324 pounds.
Up next: Raiders vs. Bengals, 2:05 p.m. Sunday
Jace Whittaker, CB, Arizona Cardinals
Tucson connection: Whittaker is a former UA cornerback.
The rundown: Whittaker is with the Cardinals’ practice squad and played in one game this season against San Francisco, recording three tackles.
Up next: Cardinals vs. Seahawks, 2:25 p.m. Sunday
Jeff Cotton, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Tucson connection: Cotton is a graduate of Mountain View High School.
The rundown: The ex-Idaho Vandal shined in the preseason, but has spent the entire season with the Jaguars’ practice squad.
Up next: Jaguars vs. 49ers, 11 a.m. Sunday
Contact sports producer Justin Spears at 573-4312 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @JustinESports