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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    More to tailgating than you thought

    Rebecca Marie Sansett

    Rebecca Marie Sasnett / The Daily Wildcat

    Senior theater major and former Wilbur Wildcat Robbie Dema poses for a photo
    next to a UA helmet while tailgating on the UA Mall before Friday’s game against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The helmet was built by local engineer Rafael Lopez, who’s been tailgating at UA football games for thirteen years.

    Rafael Lopez has been tailgating at the UA for thirteen years. Lately, he has been receiving much attention from other tailgaters due to his engineering skills. This past year, Lopez reconstructed a haul trailer into a giant, UA-themed football helmet. On both sides of the helmet, spectators can see the familiar face of Wilbur Wildcat. Lopez may not be able to show off his creation for much of this football season, as he will soon be leaving Arizona to work on engineering projects in Spain, Egypt, Germany and Portugal. The Daily Wildcat finds out more about how Lopez’s school spirit led to this eye-catching piece of fandom.

    DW: What is the history behind the helmet?
    Lopez: I built the helmet during last year’s season, in which it was white and had Ka’Deem Carey on the front. It took me two weeks. Next year, it will be copper, and the year after that it will be blue. I’ll probably keep Wilbur there, but who knows, maybe I’ll put Wilma on. The base is a trailer of course, and the body is made from fiberglass. I’ve even had some offers of people wanting to buy it, but I won’t sell.

    Can you tell us how the creation of your helmet came about?
    It’s a pain to pack and load everything after the game, so I got the idea to build a giant helmet. Nobody believed that I could do it, so I built it. Everything you see here will go into the helmet trailer. It was also built in memory of Miguel Carrasco, who was an engineer from UCLA.

    What is it that keeps you coming back every year?
    The game environment is nice, and everyone is really friendly. All the games are like that, just a good environment. [ASU] games are the only ones not like that.

    Are there any traditions that you enjoy when it comes to tailgating?
    Yes, I like it when the cheerleaders and the band come out to the tailgate before the game. I like that very much. It creates a nice environment and atmosphere, and everyone here gets really into it.

    What are your predictions this year for the 2014-2015 UA football season?
    I am a big supporter of the [UA], but our main guy Ka’Deem left last year. We have been trying to build up a good team and turn it into a powerhouse for the last eight years, but haven’t been able to do so for some reason. I hope we do well, but I don’t think we will do that good this year.

    What is your take on the difference between college ball and professional?
    I think college ball is where it’s at. The professionals are all a bunch of prima donnas. The college players don’t get paid, the professionals do. They really put their guts into it, so they can prove themselves. So if they get injured, the school should take care of them.

    —Follow Cristien Keeme-Sayre @DailyWildcat

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