With 15 minutes left in Thursday’s practice, Chuck Cecil stepped onto the Sugar Skulls’ field sporting a navy blue long-sleeve T-shirt featuring his alma mater-turned-employer’s block A logo.
Cecil was at home, but in a totally new place. The same goes for his latest job.
The Arizona Wildcats legend will serve as color analyst for television broadcasts of the Sugar Skulls’ home games, which will be shown on The CW Network locally and streamed worldwide on the Sugar Skulls’ YouTube page. He will continue to serve as a different kind of analyst — senior defensive analyst, to be exact — on UA coach Kevin Sumlin’s staff.
Cecil called his new side-gig “exciting.” The Sugar Skulls (1-0) will play their first-ever home game Sunday against the Bismarck Bucks. Tucson opened Indoor Football League play last week with a win over the San Diego Strike Force.
“I love Tucson and (the Sugar Skulls) are definitely a part of Tucson, and I think it’s going to be exciting for the community,” he said. “The fact that I get to be a part of it is a blessing to me.”
Cecil, 54, is about to enter his third season as an UA analyst. He came to the Wildcats from the NFL, where he served as a secondary coach and defensive coordinator for the Rams and Titans. Cecil was a star safety at the UA who played professionally for the Packers, Cardinals and Oilers. He famously made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1993 with the headline “Is Chuck Cecil Too Vicious for the NFL?”
Count Sugar Skulls coach Marcus Coleman as a Cecil fan.
“I used to watch Chuck growing up,” he said. “I just remember him blowing everybody up. It didn’t matter how big they were. If you were a wideout coming across the middle and Chuck was sitting there, there was a 99 percent chance you were going to catch one. He was gonna give it to you. Once he read it, it was like an explosion. I used to love watching him.”
Coleman went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL as a defensive back. Naturally, the coach said he’s ecstatic to have one of his own in the broadcast booth.
“I’m just glad to have a defensive guy in the booth for once,” he said. “Usually, the quarterbacks and wideouts are the ones in the booth. Us defensive guys are pretty smart too. We know how to talk ball, too, so I’m glad he’s on board.”
Cecil did a little broadcasting in 2011, when he worked for ESPN regional networks. Before then, Cecil was a color analyst for UA football games with the late Dave Sitton on Fox Sports Net. The self-effacing Cecil said he remembered one thing.
“I’m better on the field than in the booth,” Cecil said with a smile. “Just self-evaluation.”
Whether it’s playing, coaching or broadcasting, Cecil always kept the game of football in his life. It’s a love that hasn’t gone away.
“Chuck’s 30-plus years of football expertise as a coach and player speaks for itself,” Sugar Skulls owner Kevin Guy said in a press release. “From Day 1 it has been our priority to make the Sugar Skulls a real hometown team, and with Chuck’s passion for Tucson and his support of its people and local businesses, we couldn’t be prouder to have someone with his character connected to our organization.”
Passion is an understatement. Cecil has described his time in Tucson as a “fairytale.”
“I told my wife in Tennessee back when we were with the Titans … ‘I plan on going back to Tucson.’ She said ‘Really? Why are you going to do that?’” he said. “My life here was a fairytale, it truly was. I have to pay it back and so I felt like I needed to pay it back with whatever role it was and I wanted to try and help out however I could and I’m trying to do that.”
Paying it forward is exactly what Cecil plans on doing with his earnings from the seven broadcasts this season for the Sugar Skulls. He will work alongside Pat Parris and Jason Barr on the broadcasts.
“We’re donating a lot of the money to charity,” he said. “My wife and I have done a lot of different things charity-wise with kids. We had a foster child so it’s something that is near and dear to our hearts.”