Arizona's season was full of twists and turns, but the Wildcats, who reached six wins, are bowling for the fourth consecutive season Saturday in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl against New Mexico. Several of those twists and turns were of the ligaments and tendons on Arizona's defense, which suffered a plethora of injuries throughout the season. The injury plague was a key reason redshirt junior Paul Magloire Jr. was essential to the Wildcats reaching a bowl game.
Every team needs one player that doesn't have the most notable statistics, but does just enough to get the job done while maintaining a smile. To start the season, Magloire wasn't on the radar as a playmaker. In the first half against UTSA, the twists and turn began as All-American linebacker Scooby Wright III went down with a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.
Arizona's middle linebacker understudy, Haden Gregory, went down the following week against Nevada leaving walk-on freshman Tre Tyler to finish the game and earn the start for the Wildcats against Northern Arizona in week three. The linebacker woes didn't stop there because outside linebacker DeAndre' Miller was out for majority of the season with a shoulder injury as well as middle linebacker Derrick Turituri with a hip injury. It also doesn't help that linebacker Cody Ippolito was out before the season began with a torn ACL that he suffered in fall camp.
Left with few options, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez converted defensive backs in Jake Matthews and Magloire to play linebacker.
"It was a big change for me, because I was so used to having the eyes of a safety but now my eyes are focused more on the guys on the front line so it took some time to get used to it. I've gotten a lot better on getting off of blocks," Magloire said.
Magloire made an immediate impact, averaging just over seven tackles per game following Arizona's two-game skid against UCLA and Stanford to open up conference play. He even lost a tooth in Arizona's final home game of the season against Utah and still the finished the game.
It isn't just Magloire's play on the field that makes him who he is, but his efforts off the field to ensure the community is behind Arizona football. Magloire spends hours at the Diamond's Children Hospital every week speaking with children.
"I was at the Diamond's Children hospital handing out books and I met some really cool kids. I promised them some gifts. So I have to go back and hand out some posters and gloves signed by some of the people. They don't know who I am, but they love Scooby Wright so I'll get him to sign a few things," Magloire said.
Magloire is a community man and expressed that he is just a regular collegiate player who is just trying to play his way into the NFL.
"I'm just a normal kid who just got here from junior college. I'm friendly with everybody and I don't have any beef with anybody so I'm good," Magloire said. "I love to give back to the community and they're the people that fill up the stands every Saturday. You know I'm not from Tucson so getting involved with a new community that supports our team is a good feeling."
In a challenging season for the entire defense, Magloire is seeking one more win for the Wildcats in a season that needed his best efforts.
Justin Spears is SI's campus correspondent for the University of Arizona. Follow him on Twitter.