Editor’s Note: Front Row also asked Bruschi about this video of him and his former Patriots teammate Tom Brady from last weekend’s Kentucky Derby.
What’s your connection to Kentucky Derby-winning horse Orb?I got to know Ogden Phipps and his wife, Ashley, over Derby weekend and I found out he was the owner of Orb. We met just this year during some of the social events and we hit it off. I told him a funny story about how before I left I asked my oldest son to pick some horses to see who he thought would win. He picked Orb. I told him (Phipps) the story and he gave us an Orb hat. So I ended up betting Orb for my son, and Orb won. After the race I wanted to go see him. We ended up going over a barricade to get to where the owners were. Tom (Brady) and I went over to him and gave him a hug, and I said, ‘you just won the Super Bowl.’
It was so different for me because I was cheering for Orb and I wanted Orb to win. I was telling Tom and my teammates, usually we’re the horse, and we don’t have to worry about any of this. We go out there and play and let the chips fall where they may. We never have this type of attachment. So, it felt strange for me to cheer and then feel so good for someone because you knew them. It flipped a switch for me because we’re normally the horses.
On Tuesday, ESPN NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi was named to the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 by the National Football Foundation. A two-time All-American defensive end at the University of Arizona (1992-95), Bruschi was a member of the Wildcats’ vaunted “Desert Swarm” defense and he finished his career tied for the NCAA FBS record in career sacks (52) before eventually winning three Super Bowls during his 13 NFL seasons with the New England Patriots. (Coincidentally, Bruschi is also a nominee for Patriots Hall of Fame honors this year.)
Front Row spoke with Bruschi about the Hall of Fame honor and his memories of playing at Arizona.
How did you get the news about the Hall of Fame?
I got a call from Steve Hatchell, President and CEO of the National Football Foundation. He told me about being inducted and I was almost baffled. I know it’s a tremendous honor and it felt that way but I could not believe it was happening. I didn’t play college football to be a Hall of Famer. All I wanted to do was rush the passer and win games for Arizona. I think that’s the mindset everyone should have playing football – just play hard, win the game and move on. I don’t know how to describe it but it caught me off guard. My last game for Arizona, we beat Arizona State, and before I went back in the tunnel, I turned back around to look at the field and remember the moment, and for me it was over. To be able to relive it all is exciting.
What do you remember about being recruited?
I wanted to play in the Pac-10, which is now the Pac-12. Really my only two choices were Washington State and Arizona. I really looked at my college choice as the place I would spend my next four or five years, and I just fell in love with Tucson, the sunshine and the desert down there.
Who influenced you most while you were there?
Those college years are so important for a young man. I spent five years there from 18 to 23. I was raised by coach Dick Tomey. Clarence Brooks, who’s now a defensive line coach with the Baltimore Ravens, Rich Ellerson, now the head coach at West Point, Marc Lunsford was the coach who recruited me. It was more than football. They were teaching me how to be a man, and the decisions I had to make.
What are your best memories of playing college football at Arizona?
Definitely being part of “Desert Swarm.” I don’t know where the nickname came from but it’s cool. No one knew about me or Brandon Sanders, Charlie Camp, Tony Bouie, Jim Hoffman, these types of guys. No one knew about us individually but people knew about us when we played together. That’s what made us so special. We were a unit with a chip on our shoulder that played against the USC’s and the UCLA’s. We always went out to prove a point every time we played.
What is the best congratulatory message you’ve received?
All the ones from my coaches. I look at their congratulatory message, and I text them back and say, ‘no, thank you!’ I want to thank them for all the values they taught me – playing hard, putting the team first and believing no one’s better than you.
What was your best game as a collegian?
Our best game was against Illinois. We won 16-14 and our offense didn’t score a point. We scored two defensive touchdowns, and I believe a safety. I had three sacks. To win without your offense scoring a point, that’s something I always think about.