TUCSON, Ariz. He looks likes your average paper boy -- the mild-mannered boy-next-door type.
Until you put him in a helmet and pads.
From Tonka truck to Mack Truck. The transformation is tremendous.
Yes, said Jared Tevis, Arizona's 5-foot-10ish, 195-pound safety, people look at me and at first glance, you wouldnt think Id be where I am at.
But hes here and one of the many Tucsonans on Arizonas roster getting ready to play in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl vs. Nevada on Saturday. Growing up in Tucson, he remembers watching a few bowl games Arizona participated in, most recently Arizonas not-so-memorable 33-0 loss to Nebraska in San Diego three years ago. Arizona hasnt won a bowl game in four years. They stayed home for the holidays last year after a 4-8 season.
We have big expectations for Saturday, Tevis said. It feels good to be playing during the holiday season. We missed that last year. Its good to be back, and Im glad to be here.
"Here" is at the center of Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense. With scholarship in hand -- having earned one after impressing Rich Rodriguez and his new coaching staff during spring drills.
It almost never happened.
Tevis, a standout at Canyon Del Oro High (Ka'Deem Carey's alma mater), was a player without a home until getting a call from former Arizona coach Mike Stoops a month before his freshman year, saying there was a walk-on spot with his name on it.
He was not going to play football, couldnt even get a walk-on for NAU (Northern Arizona), said Tevis' high school coach, Dustin Peace. Jucos offered him, but all of sudden Arizona called and he took advantage.
Peace knew that all Tevis had to do was get a foot in the door and hed do the rest.
Tevis has instincts and intangibles you cant teach.
Hes a gamer and people are starting to see that," Peace said. "He does things that dont come up on tape. Instinctively he does things that you cant coach. He just has it. Hes a difference maker.
The underdog has turned into a Big Dawg.
Thats what has always driven me, Tevis said. I just say, Come watch me play, and maybe Ill change your mind.
How about definitely?
Tevis success is no surprise to his former high school teammate, All-America running back Carey.
Tevis is a hard-nosed football player and gives it everything he
(has) every time he plays, Carey said. Thats why I like Tevis.
Thats why I think we connect. You never have to worry about him.
Carey said Tevis is so smart in the game of football, hes the coaches best friend.
He was the king of the high school because everyone loved him, Carey said. He was the dude.
As part of Arizonas defense, hes been more than a dude. Hes been a man, starting 10 games as the teams bandit safety, compiling 72 tackles -- fourth among all players. He has two interceptions, six pass breakups and has forced three fumbles.
And much of his success came after suffering a horrible looking ankle sprain against Oregon State in late September that cost him to miss two games and most of a third.
Well, he was playing really, really well, Rodriguez said of Tevis.
I think the first couple of weeks back, he just kind of fought through it a little bit, but he's healthy now. He's a good football player, a really good football player.
Tevis never doubted he would return.
It was just a matter of time," he said. "I was just hoping to get back as soon as possible.
Whether to deliver a ball-separating hit, or stop for the next day's news.