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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


The UA’s 10 best athletes of all-time

Michael Shane Smith
Sophomore defensive end Tedy Bruschi barrels through the Washington State offensive line in pursuit of Cougars quarterback Chad DeGrenier.

It’s no secret that UA has been home to some of college sports’ most talented athletes. Here’s a look at 10 of them, and why they are (or were) so great. 

1. Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr is arguably the most successful Wildcat at not only the collegiate level, but also in life after his time at Arizona. During his time here, Kerr led the Wildcats to a Final Four in 1988 and also set an NCAA record for 3-point percentage in a season, going 114-for-199 with 57.3 percentage.

Kerr went on to win three championships with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls as well as two championships with Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.

Kerr has called the Bay Area home for the past two years as the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, where he’s lead the team to two NBA Finals appearances, an NBA championship and a 73-9 record in 2015-16—the best record in league history.

It’s safe to say Kerr has, and always will, have an impact on the game of basketball.

2. Tedy Bruschi

Tedy Bruschi is a household name due to his imprint at the linebacker position.

Bruschi attended the UA from 1991-1995, racking up 185 tackles and tied the NCAA record with 52 sacks at defensive end, becoming a two-time All-American as part of Arizona’s vaunted”Desert Swarm” defense.

After college, Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots, where he was a three-time Super Champion, a Pro-Bowler in 2004 and was eventually elected as a member of the Patriots’ Hall of Fame.

Bruschi was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

3. Sean Elliott

The new generation refers to people from Tucson as “T-Locs” and Sean Elliott is potentially the most successful “T-Loc” there is.

He’s commonly seen as the best player to ever put on an Arizona basketball jersey, a noteworthy accomplishment considering the program’s rich history.

Elliott cleaned house in 1989, winning every player of the year award—the John Wooden award, the Adolph Rupp trophy and the Associated Press Player of the Year award. The two-time All-American also broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Pac-10 Conference scoring record and went on to become an NBA Champion in 1999 with the San Antonio Spurs.

He is still Arizona’s all-time leading scorer, and his No. 32 jersey has been retired by the school.

4. Rob Gronkowski

The artist formerly known as “Gronk” is keeping Wildcat nation proud with his ability to remain in the spotlight on and off the field. Gronkowski had a quiet, yet productive, career at Arizona, and it was cut short due to him missing the 2009 season with a back injury and jumping straight to the NFL in 2010.

Gronkowski is a Super Bowl Champion and is on track to become one of the greatest tight ends of all-time, as he’s accumlated over 5,000 receiving yards in six seasons with the New England Patriots.

Let’s just hope that Gronkowski won’t receive the “Madden Curse”, since he’ll be on the cover of EA Sports’ “Madden 17”.

5. Kenny Lofton

Before becoming one of the fastest and electric baseball players of all-time, Kenny Lofton was known for his role at the point guard position under Lute Olson with the 1988 Final Four squad and the 1989 Sweet Sixteen group.

After college, Lofton would transition to baseball full-time and eventually became one of two players to play in a Final Four and an MLB World Series.

When all was said and done, Lofton was a five-time All-Star, a five-time American League stolen base leader and a four-time Golden Glove winner in 16 seasons in the big leagues.

6. Jennie Finch

Jennie Finch is not only the best player in Arizona softball history, but one of the best pitchers in softball history period.

Finch had a 119-16 record in four seasons in Arizona from 1999-2002, and had a 1.08 career ERA, while pitching 876.2 innings and striking out 1,028 batters for the Wildcats.

She set an NCAA record by winning 51 games in a row during her time in Tucson, and helped lead the Wildcats to a National Championship victory in 2001.

Finch left Arizona as the leader in strikeouts and shutouts and went on to win a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics.

Her No. 27 jersey was retired in 2003.

7. Terry Francona

Terry Francona played in the MLB for nine seasons, but is mostly known for his time as a manager.

He managed the Red Sox to two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, breaking the 86-year old Curse of the Bambino and is now the manager of the Cleveland Indians, where he won the American League Manager of the Year award in 2013.

But before his success running a team, Francona was a standout at Arizona. He lead the Wildcats to National Championship in 1980 and was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

He also won the Golden Spikes Award that season, an award given to the best amateur baseball player in the United States, as he had a .401 batting average with nine home runs and 84 RBI.

8. Ka’Deem Carey

Ka’Deem Carey was a two-time All-American at Arizona and was named the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2013.

That season, the running back averaged 5.4 yards per carry and rushed for over 100 yards in every contest.

In total, Carey rushed for 4,239 yards and 48 touchdowns in his three-year career at Arizona, and entered the NFL Draft in 2014.

He was selected by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round, and has played sparingly, carrying the ball just 79 times in two seasons.

9. Annika Sorenstam

Annika Sorenstam only played two seasons at Arizona and rightfully so, because she became one of the greatest golfers on the LPGA tour of all-time.

At Arizona, Sorenstam was the 1991 NCAA Co-Player of the Year, a runner-up in the 1992 NCAA championship, a 1992 Pac-10 champion and a 1991–92 NCAA All-American.

As a professional, Sorenstam ranks third all-time with 72 wins on the LPGA Tour and became a member the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003.

She retired in 2008 as the winner of a record-best eight Player of the Year awards and six Vare Trophies—a trophy given to the player with the lowest scoring average.

In 2001, Sorenstam shot a 59 in the second round of the Standard Register Ping Tournament at Moon Valley in Phoenix, the lowest score ever recorded by a female golfer in the LPGA Tour.

10. Jim Furyk

Jim Furyk was a two-time All-American as a member of Arizona’s golf team, and led the Wildcats to the program’s first and only national championship in 1992.

After his time at Arizona, Furyk went on to have prolonged career in the PGA.In 2003, Furyk won the U.S. Open and has 27 professional wins thus far and was a top-10 golfer for 380 weeks from 1999 to 2015 in the Official World Golf Rankings. In 2010, he was the PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Follow Justin Spears on Twitter

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