Old Pueblo Pride

Tony Wingate has a chip on his shoulder. It's nothing serious. He isn't fuming over playing time or a change in the scheme. No Wingate is a little peeved that he is one of the few Tucsonans left in the Wildcat football program.

In fact, Wingate is the lone Tucsonan with a scholarship. There are only five players listed as being from Tucson on the roster and four of those are walk-ons. TE Charles McRae attended Pueblo High School as a senior but is listed as being from Deltona, FL.

The Sahuaro High grad feels a little pressure to represent the hometown on Saturdays.

"Every day guys are coming in from California and coming in from Texas and talking bad about Arizona sports in general, football, basketball," Wingate said. "So everyday we come in and have a little thing going between the players about who is from where. I'm the only one from Tucson now, so I'm just representing for Tucson and Arizona."

Although a handful of Arizonans are on the squad, most are not very vocal in defending the Grand Canyon State.

"It's just me and Mike Bell representing for Arizona," Wingate laughed.

What is no laughing matter is Wingate's role on this team. He is in the mix at safety and has been used quite a bit as a nickel back, the team's fifth defensive back on passing situations.

"We're going more to five DB's in certain types of formations that the offense is giving us," Wingate explained. "We are going to have five and even six DB's on the field sometimes."

Although he has been a safety his entire Wildcat career, his time as a high school corner back has helped him a great deal in adjusting to the nickel back role.

"It's a little bit easier having that corner experience in high school, just to come into the box a little bit, we're covering receivers a little bit longer," Wingate said. "Not necessarily coming down field from the safety position, but already being down there."

Wingate has the odd distinction of having played for four coaches at Arizona. He came in as a Tomey recruit, played for John Mackovic for two and a half seasons and then finished last season under Mike Hankwitz.

"It's just given me a chance to work with a variety of people and a variety of situations," said Wingate putting a positive spin on things. "It helped me grow as a person and a player. Having four head coaches is certainly an experience, I'm going to write a book after this is all done. It definitely has been an experience to work with all four guys."

Now his senior year he gets to play for Mike Stoops and he couldn't be happier. In fact, Wingate is thrilled to work with both of the Stoops brothers.

"Both of them are very intense coaches and both of them demand everything from their players," Wingate said. "One is saying something and the other one is right there backing him up when you do something wrong. When you do do something right they are both there to praise you."

Their track records at Miami and Oklahoma certainly aid their credibility.

"Both have sent great players to the League. All we're just trying to do is suck as much experience out of them as possible."

Wingate looked to be low on the depth chart last season. He slipped behind true freshman Marcus Hollingsworth and was sharing time with Gary Shepard before he move to the rover position. Now he is in the mix and could start if Darrell Brooks has more injury problems.

The senior is just happy for a shot. He has seen a good deal of action in his career, but has not had a vital role in the defense. That looks to change this season.

"I'm just out here just trying to work hard and compete for a spot," said Wingate. "Coach has given everybody a chance to compete, which is good, it just enhances the competition in practice and helps us learn the defense a little faster."


Wildcat Authority Top Stories