Here is what made Dick Tomey special as a recruiter at Arizona

Anthony Gimino

Dick Tomey presides over the Arizona practice fields, forevermore.

The school officially named the field in honor of the winningest coach in school history on Friday. Tomey died in May at the age of 80 after battling lung cancer, and about 40 of his former players were present, as well as current and former administrators and coaches.

"You get to see the impact he had forever," said three-time All-Pac-12 linebacker Lance Briggs, who went on to a stellar NFL career with the Chicago Bears. "It's awesome."

Second-year football coach Kevin Sumlin told a story he said he had yet to share publicly.

Tomey called him after he interviewed for the job in January 2018.

"After we had a conversation about coming to the University of Arizona, Coach Tomey called me and told me, 'This is the place you need to be.' … And he went on and on and on about philosophy and the things he did here and what he wanted to see accomplished here. When you have that kind of blessing from a man like that, it's a lot.

"I just want you to know -- former players, our administration, everybody who is here -- I don't take that lightly."

Several of the football alums spoke at the event, with some sharing what make Tomey's personal approach unique as a recruiter.


Parker, who didn't play high school football, developed into a prospect at Golden West Junior College in Huntington, Calif., and was part of Tomey's first full recruiting class in 1988. Parker went on to a 12-year NFL career.

"I remember (then-USC) coach Larry Smith came into my living room, talking to my mom and dad. He had a suit on. Everyone was dressed up very formal. In comes Johnny Majors (of Tennessee), same thing. Suit," Parker said.

"Dick Tomey comes walking in wearing a windbreaker and shorts. Because he knew who he was recruiting. He was recruiting a kid who didn't play high school football. All I had known was shorts, flip-flops and T-shirts. I had done nothing but surf and play volleyball my whole life. He knew who he was recruiting.

"He got on the floor with me, man. He pulled out a campus map and was down on the floor. I'm on the couch. Now picture this -- a 6-6, 310-pound kid, beard, long hair, working as a bouncer -- and he's like, 'Come on down, come on down.'

"He gets me on the floor and he starts having me visualize and pointing to things. He is having me picture what it is going to be like to be a Wildcat at Arizona. It was like a virtual tour he led me on. It was beautiful. An incredible way to do things."


Briggs, from Sacramento, Calif., was a big-time recruit who also had home visits from Nebraska, USC, Oregon and Cal. But none of the coaches had Tomey's approach.

"Him coming into my living room, and the first thing he talked to me about was my smile. He didn't talk football. For the first 15, 20 minutes, he just talked about, 'You have a smile that will light up a room.' That smile is going to carry you in life.' And it was touching."

Briggs said no other coach talked about his smile.

"No. Not at all. Nobody else talked about my smile, actually. Maybe I didn't smile for anybody else."


Northcutt was a speedy 145-pound wideout from Dorsey High in Los Angeles, intending to go to nearby USC. He was being recruited by assistant coach Dino Babers -- now the head coach at Syracuse -- and then Babers made a home visit with Tomey.

"I was already locked in to USC. I was a home kid; I wanted to stay home. There was something not right about it; it didn't just fit, but I wanted to play at USC. Coach Tomey and Coach Babers came into my living room, and it was all she wrote.

"Coach Tomey made this 5-foot-10, 145-pound player feel like he was 6-4, 210. He said, 'You can play for me and you can play for me right now. I know what's in your heart.' I was like, 'Oh no, I'm from Compton.'

"But he had this belief. He looked me in my eyes and said, 'I believe in you.' … Needless to say, I was the only freshman who didn't redshirt. He put a belief in my right away and I put my belief in Coach Tomey."

Comments (1)
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Steve Buchanan
Steve Buchanan


Chills and Thrills kind of story. Taking breath away story. Wow!