By Kevin Clerici
Arizona Daily Wildcat September 19, 1996
Don't ask David Fipp about being in the spotlight or you might just embarrass him.
Since walking onto the Arizona football team in 1993, he has received about as much media attention as there is snow in Tucson.
So don't blame him if, after recording nine tackles and an interception in the end zone to preserve the UA's shutout of Illinois last Saturday, he wasn't prepared for all the attention.
Fipp didn't come to the program as a highly touted high school prospect. In fact, he was barely recruited. He passed up a track scholarship to pole vault at Oregon, his father's alma mater, because in his heart he wasn't done with football.
"I like certain elements of risks," Fipp said. "It is like when there is a hundred people against you and nobody says that you can do it, that is when I want to be in there - to show what I can do."
Fipp's coach at La Jolla (Calif.) high school, Rey Hernandez, known for coaching former UA cornerback Chuck Cecil, got him the invited walk-on opportunity.
Fipp passed up a sure thing at Oregon for a chance to play at Arizona.
"In order to get the elite things in life that you want, you have to take a certain amount of chances," he said. "It is a lot easier to go down an easy road and have things made for you. But that is not always going to be the road that is going to lead you to the greatest success. Sometimes it takes going through the pain and the struggle to become what you want to be."
Fipp has started all three games this season and is a leader in a secondary that doesn't have a senior in the bunch.
In his redshirt season, as a freshman, he made the scout team. As a sophomore he traveled with the team because of his prowess on special teams.
Last season he worked with Brandon Sanders at safety, trying to learn as much as he could from the first-team All-Pacific 10 Conference player.
"It has been a long road. I think I have come a long way," Fipp said.
Now he starts on one of the best defenses in the nation and plays in a secondary that has drawn comparisons to the years of Desert Swarm, even earning its own nickname (if prematurely): Desert Swipe.
Fipp says his progress is a direct relation to his work ethic and attitude and that he doesn't take a thing for granted. Working his way onto the team as a walk-on, he has earned every break he has received in football and knows that younger, highly touted players are eager for their window to take his spot.
"I feel comfortable back there playing with the other players, but there also is a strong sense that my job is not sewed up," Fipp said. "If I have a bad day and start missing plays, then the finger will be pointed at me and they will be looking for someone else to play."
At times last season Fipp had thoughts about going somewhere else. He still was not on scholarship and all the summer workouts and endless nights of football were adding up.
"There were ideas of possibly going somewhere else," Fipp said. "You put so much into a program. Eventually, if the program doesn't give back to you, you feel a certain element of being used But at the same time it never became a significant factor. I still believed that I could play at this level."
What was such a tough time in his life then is now his motivation. Each day he gives a little more, seeing that the effort is now paying off.
"It is always nice to be in the spotlight, but I know that I have to remain focused," he said.
Fipp's focus off the field is in family studies, a major that is close to his view of the team - a family. He wants to coach someday at the college level. He said he thinks his background in family studies will help.
"As a coach, you are having to deal with kids that are from so many different backgrounds and upbringings and your role as a coach is almost becoming the role of a counselor," Fipp said. "A great team is like a family."
As for the spotlight, Fipp's shy, polite personality is something he wouldn't mind keeping a secret.
"I don't know if I really like the idea of being in the spotlight that much," he said. "I kind of like the idea of being an unknown."