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Commentary: Bruschi not only Cat with NFL success


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J. Ryan Casey
Staffwriter
By J. Ryan Casey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
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In the first of a two-part series, the Arizona Daily Wildcat examines former Wildcats in the NFL. Tomorrow's commentary features a look at the current Wildcat roster and its prospects.

We all know about three-time Super Bowl Champion Tedy Bruschi, but what about other former Wildcats who have made it to the big stage?

Currently there are 17 former Wildcats occupying spots on the active roster of an NFL club, with nine in the AFC and eight in the NFC.

Always known as a defense-oriented school, Arizona has produced 10 defensive players, seven of those being linebackers. That number can be compared to six on the offensive side of the ball and one punter.

Starting with the most obvious, Bruschi is the poster child of former Wildcats in the NFL. Always a proud Wildcat, Bruschi (1991-95) recently won his third Super Bowl ring and has amassed 504 tackles, five fumble recoveries, forced 17 fumbles and intercepted 11 passes (returning four of them for scores) over his nine-year career.

Bruschi made seven tackles and had a big fourth-quarter interception in the Patriots win over the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, but sadly, his career may be cut short because of a mild stroke he suffered just weeks later. Bruschi underwent surgery to repair a hole in his heart responsible for the stroke in mid-March.

Other than the hard-hitting linebacker who holds the school mark for career sacks, the most famous former Cat in the NFL is probably Baltimore's Chris McAllister, the only Wildcat to be drafted in the first round in recent memory (1999, 10th overall).

A unanimous All-American during his time at Arizona, McAllister (1996-98) also was named first team All-Pacific-10 Conference three straight seasons. In 1998, he became the first player in Arizona history to return a kickoff, punt and interception for a touchdown in the same season. In his illustrious career, McAllister had 122 tackles, three forced fumbles and 15 interceptions (returning two for touchdowns).

McAllister is another Wildcat who has won it all on football's biggest stage, intercepting Kerry Collins in the Ravens' 34-7 win over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. He earned his first trip to Pro Bowl in 2003 and has 15 interceptions to complement 297 tackles and two fumble recoveries in his six-year career. He starts at left cornerback for the Ravens.

The loveable Bobby Wade (1999-2002), who was quietly drafted in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round (139th overall), is next. He started all four years as a Wildcat and finished as the all-time leading receiver with 230 catches and 3,351 yards. Wade also ranks third all-time with 23 touchdowns.

Those kinds of stats haven't come as easily in the NFL for the 5-foot-10 receiver, as he has yet to find the end zone during his two-year career, though he has amassed 618 yards on 54 catches in 28 games. Wade is penciled in to start opposite David Terrell in the Bears' offense.

Joining Wade from the Bears' 2003 draft class is third-round pick Lance Briggs, who also played at Arizona from 1999-2002. Surprisingly, Briggs started his career here as a fullback, switching to linebacker the spring following his freshman season.

Becoming somewhat of a star in the NFL, Briggs started 13 of 16 games for the Bears his rookie season en route to 65 tackles and one interception (which he returned for a touchdown). Briggs has 167 tackles and two interceptions (both of which have been returned for scores) over his two-year career. He figures to start at left outside linebacker this season.

The Browns' roster contains a name many Wildcat fans will recognize: Dennis Northcutt (1995-99).

A holder of 12 school records, Northcutt began his career as a cornerback, where he played three games before switching to receiver. It's a good thing he switched, as he ranks second on the Pac-10's career reception list with 223 for 3,252 yards. Among his school records are his 5,392 all-purpose yards and single-season 88 receptions for 1,422 yards and eight touchdowns.

Enjoying a successful career in the NFL as well, Northcutt was selected 32nd overall by the Browns in 2000's second round. He had arguably the best season of his career last year, catching 55 passes for 806 yards and two touchdowns. Spanning his career, Northcutt has 212 catches for 2,769 yards and nine touchdowns. This season, he figures to be the Browns' first receiving option.

Josh Miller (1992-93) carries the distinction of being the only active former Wildcat to punt for an NFL team.

Following a transfer from Scottsdale Community College, Miller averaged 40.3 yards on 119 career punts in his two-year Arizona career. He was an All-American, as well as first team All Pac-10 in 1993.

After spending eight seasons with the Steelers, Miller signed with the Patriots as a free agent in 2004, earning a ring in the Pats' win over the Eagles this past February along with Bruschi.

Future Wildcats can look to these former Cats as examples of how to succeed at the next level.

- J. Ryan Casey is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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