When late-blooming Tedy Bruschi began his football career in high school, he was so innocent of the game's conventions that he put on his shoulder pads over his jersey. Bruschi's family had just relocated from San Francisco to Roseville, Calif., north of Sacramento. "We moved because Mom was scared of the earthquakes," Bruschi explains. His mother's fear of natural disasters did not, however, include Hurricanes, a fearlessness evidently shared by her son, who, now all grown up and a sophomore defensive end at Arizona, put the extra D in the Wildcats' 29-0 humbling of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
Arizona's defense reduced the Hurricanes, who had not been shut out since 1979, to a mere tropical depression, holding them to a measly 35 yards on the ground and 147 in the air. Much of the damage was done by Bruschi, whose name is pronounced BREW-ski and who, fittingly, once spent a summer setting up advertising displays for Budweiser. "Some people thought that was pretty funny because of my name," he allows.
The Hurricanes demonstrated an almost total lack of feel—and feeling—for the Fiesta from the moment they won the coin toss and smugly chose to kick off. Arizona drove the ball 75 yards in eight plays. "I think they were expecting another 8-7 game, and our offense shocked them," said Bruschi, referring to the single-figure loss in Miami during the 1992 regular season that so traumatized the Wildcats. "I was kind of in awe myself actually. I'm like, 'Whoa, we scored.' "
Bruschi's own first order of business in the game was to help dispose of the Hurricanes' starting quarterback, Ryan Collins. On Miami's third play from scrimmage, Bruschi chased Collins into the arms of defensive tackle Jim Hoffman for a five-yard sack. And on the next play Bruschi cut off Collins's escape avenue and dumped him on his south beach for a 16-yard loss. That was the way it went all day for the Hurricanes, who snapped the ball 12 times in the first quarter and cither stood still or went backward on 10 of those plays. Before the quarter was over, all of Miami's swagger was gone. "I think they just came out and intimidated our offense," said Miami defensive end Darren Krein.
By the start of the second quarter, Collins was gone, too, replaced by the more experienced but less mobile Frank Costa. Soon Bruschi and the Wildcats' Outland Trophy winner, noseguard Rob Waldrop, were swarming into the pocket and leveling the hapless Costa. "I was happy to have Costa in," Bruschi later said. "We knew he was a drop-back kind of guy, and we just lick our chops when we see a guy like that."
Nothing personal, of course. Bruschi had 55 tackles during the regular season, and half of them were behind the opponent's line of scrimmage. He led the Pac-10 with 19 sacks and had twice as many traps in the backfield as Waldrop. "I'm always coming off the ball with my ears pinned back," Bruschi says, although you'll have to take his word for it, because his flowing dark hair obscures his ears. He is only 6'1", but he more than compensates by launching himself like a missile directly at quarterbacks. "He's possessed," says Arizona coach Dick Tomey.
When Illinois had a chance to get close enough for a game-winning field goal against Arizona on Sept. 18, Bruschi stopped the Illini cold with a pair of sacks. And when Arizona was struggling to hold off Washington State on Oct. 23, Bruschi sacked Cougar quarterback Chad DeGrenier twice in the final two minutes. "You rarely sec a defensive lineman with that kind of speed," DeGrenier said.
When you do, just about the only thing that can be done is to raise your glass and say, "This Bruschi's for you."