Cats welcome Stoops


By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, December 1, 2003

UA players happy with hiring of Oklahoma associate head coach

Texas native and UA starting quarterback Kris Heavner grew up admiring the Stoops brothers at Oklahoma as they tore through the Big 12 Conference.

Now, he has a chance to play for one.

Heavner, a Johnson City, Texas, native who will enter his second season as the Wildcats' most experienced signal caller, said his initial reaction to Sooner co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops' hiring was excitement.

"I'm excited to have a guy like him come in here," Heavner said. "He's a winner."

Heavner was one of three players, along with freshman tight end Matt Padron and junior wide receiver Ricky Williams, who saw the press conference on television and came to meet their head coach afterward.

"He's a good coach. I'm excited," Padron said.

When the players came into the Stadium Club in Arizona Stadium, site of Saturday's press conference, Stoops' wife, Nicole, said Stoops was anxious to meet some of the players on Saturday.

When Heavner and Stoops met face-to-face, Stoops said he was going to call the first-year QB that evening, but Heavner said he had to meet his new head coach in person.

Stoops asked if Heavner would be available to talk on the phone that night. Heavner replied with a definitive yes.

Heavner, who had 1,501 yards passing with eight touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2003, boasts the most yards for a true freshman quarterback in UA history.

Stoops is the fourth head coach for Williams, who redshirted his first year at Arizona in 2000.

"He brings a fire and attitude to the game and some excitement we haven't had in previous coaches," Williams, who had three catches for 55 yards against ASU on Friday, said of Stoops.

Heavner said the Stoops name will bring credibility to the program.

"It means a lot; he's a big time coach. Everybody knows Stoops," he said.

"(He's) definitely the coach I would have picked, and we're excited about it," Padron said. "I definitely think this is a good hire for us."

Williams had expected Stoops to earn the job even before interviews for the position had concluded.

"I had a feeling it was going to be Stoops," he said. "I'm not really surprised at the situation; I'm just glad that the process is over with."

In addition to being considered a hard-nosed coach at Oklahoma, Stoops was also known as a players' coach. When asked about leaving his brother and his players at Oklahoma behind prior to the Sooners' bowl game, tears welled up in Stoops' eyes.

"It's hard. It's extremely hard. It'll probably be the hardest thing that I will have to do," he said. "You have your brother you have some players that I have great relationships with. That will be very difficult."

After two-plus years of the offensive-minded John Mackovic at the Wildcat helm, even offensive players Heavner and Padron welcomed the hire of the defensive coordinator.

"He brings a lot of experience," Padron said. "He brings a talented defensive mindset to the game. That's something that's been lacking the last couple years."

Heavner said Stoops would bring the toughness back to the once-proud UA program.

"He will bring a competitiveness back and will make everyone better," he said.

Stoops said he planned on meeting with the returning players, in addition to the departing seniors, on Dec. 8, when he officially takes hold of the Wildcat reins.

Charles Renning contributed to this report.