Arizona Wildcats: Where Ka'Deem Carey Will Rank Among School's Greatest
Arizona Wildcats running back Ka'Deem Carey is preparing for what potentially is his last football game in his hometown when his team faces Oregon on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
His lofty status nationally, after leading the FBS in rushing last year, begs the question: Where does he rank among the pantheon of Arizona Wildcats greats? The university lists 25 national player of the year honorees. Carey has a few opportunities to become No. 26 and join the likes of Sean Elliott, Terry Francona and Annika Sorenstam.
The Arizona Wildcats' #TeamKaDeem campaign boasts Carey as a Heisman candidate. He is a semifinalist for the Maxwell, Doak Walker and Walter Camp awards.
He will likely play on Sundays next year.
NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang told TucsonCitizen.com this week that the Arizona Wildcats junior from Tucson's Canyon del Oro High School is a potential late first-round pick come April.
Carey is only 117 yards from Trung Canidate's Arizona Wildcats career rushing record of 3,824 yards and three rushing touchdowns from Art Luppino's school record of 44 heading into Saturday's game with Oregon.
Carey can break both records against the Ducks, but if he doesn't, the Arizona Wildcats powerful tailback has at least one more game at Arizona State on Nov. 30 to achieve the feats.
His legendary status in Tucson is established, especially with his upbringing in the city.
The following is a ranking of where Carey will belong among the elite Arizona Wildcats in history as his career unfolds. The ranking uses the school's list of national award winners as the field. It is based on the athlete's accomplishments at Arizona and how the person impacted his or her sport at the next level.
Carey's ranking is based on if he competes in NFL as he has shown at Arizona. Popularity of the athlete is also part of the equation. With Carey a homegrown talent, his name is right up there.
When trying to pare down the list of 25 Arizona Wildcats who have earned national awards, it's difficult to leave some out of the five greatest Wildcats of all time.
Some of the Arizona Wildcats greats who deserve mention include Steve Kerr, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Chris McAlister and Lacey Nymeyer.
Kerr's national honor was the 1988 Most Courageous Award given by the United States Basketball Writers Assocation. He overcame the death of his father and a potential career-ending knee injury during his Arizona career.
He later won five NBA titles as a significant contributor to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls and Tim Duncan's San Antonio Spurs.
Bibby earned the 1997 National Freshman of the Year honors after leading the Wildcats to the NCAA title that season. Hee played 13 seasons in the NBA and according to Basketball-Reference, he is one of only 116 players with at least 1,000 career NBA games.
Now in his 14th season in the NBA, Terry is one of only 40 players who won an NCAA and NBA championship, as detailed by Complex. Terry was a Sports Illustrated, CBS and Basketball Times National Player of the Year as a senior in 1998-99.
In 1998, McAlister won the now-defunct Mosi Tatupu Award given to the nation's top special teams player. He was a dangerous returner but a more impressive defender as a shutdown cornerback. He became the first Arizona player to return a kickoff, punt and interception for a touchdown in the same season.
McAlister went on to win a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
Nymeyer, a Tucson product similar to Ka'Deem Carey and Sean Elliott, was the 2009 NCAA Woman of the Year for her accomplishments in the classroom and in the pool as a swimmer.
During Nymeyer's senior year, the Wildcats won the 2008 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championship. Nymeyer was an individual NCAA champion in the 200-yard freestyle (2007) and 100-yard freestyle (2008).
At the 2007 World Aquatics Championships, Nymeyer was a member of the world record-breaking 4x200-meter freestyle relay team. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Nymeyer was part of the United States' 4x100-meter freestyle team that won the silver medal.
5. Lorena Ochoa
The Arizona golf program has featured some of the world's best, including Jim Furyk, Marisa Baena, Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam, to name a few.
Ochoa has carved her niche into the Arizona Wildcats' pantheon of greatest athletes by becoming an international influence on the sport after taking home the 2002 National Golf Association Award while with the Wildcats.
In her sophomore season at Arizona in 2002, Ochoa set an NCAA record with seven consecutive victories in her first seven events. She left UA after that season and went on to fame and fortune in the LPGA.
She was the world's top-ranked women's golfer from 2007 to 2010. She overtook former Arizona Wildcats great Annika Sorenstam for the top spot in 2007. She won two majors (British Open and Kraft Nabisco Championship) and 25 LPGA Tour events before semi-retiring in 2010.
Leonard Shapiro of The Washington Post regarded her as the top Mexican golfer of all time, male or female.
Lexi Thompson won the Lorena Ochoa Invitational last week at the Guadalajara Country Club, Ochoa's original course. Proceeds from the LPGA event support the Lorena Ochoa Foundation, which helps marginalized children reach a balanced life through educational programs, sports, healthy living and self-esteem seminars.
"To have Lorena Ochoa give me the trophy on the 18th green, it's so memorable and honorable," Thompson was quoted as saying by USA Today. "She's been such a huge role model to me. Just to play in her event, it's an honor and to be here and to see her. It is a great honor to win this event and have her give me the trophy. It means a lot to me."
4. Terry Francona
Terry Francona added to his long list of accomplishments earlier this month with the American League Manager of the Year award.
Francona's career since winning the 1980 Golden Spikes Award with Arizona is filled with historic accomplishments, mostly as a manager at the major league level.
While starring for the Arizona Wildcats, Francona set an NCAA record at the College World Series when he got hits in seven consecutive official at-bats on June 4 and 5, 1980. Dave Magadan (Alabama, 1983) and Barry Bonds (Arizona State, 1984) surpassed the mark with eight consecutive hits each.
In 2004, Francona was hired to manage the Boston Red Sox, and that year he led the team to its first World Series title since 1918. He won another World Series with Boston in 2007 and continued to manage the team until the end of the 2011 season.
Despite the World Series titles for Boston, including the history-changer in 2004, Francona was not selected as manager of the year until this season, his first with Cleveland.
Always humble, Francona told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was not responsible for the honor.
"I really don't feel I won this award over anyone else," Francona said. "This is an organizational award. That's what makes me so happy. I think we did this together all year."
3. Ka'Deem Carey
Again, this ranking takes into account Ka'Deem Carey's present standing and where he will rank among the Arizona Wildcats greats if he has a similar NFL career.
If he becomes an accomplished NFL running back, Carey belongs among the pantheon of greats who have represented the Arizona Wildcats. Carey can make history by becoming the most accomplished Arizona Wildcats running back to complete a storied NFL career.
Arizona has produced 17 running backs who have been drafted by NFL teams, but none became household names nationally. Trung Canidate is the highest selected in the first round (31st overall by the Rams in 2000). No Arizona rusher has been drafted since.
Canidate lasted only five seasons in the NFL. No Arizona Wildcats running back has played in the Pro Bowl. A void for Arizona exists at that position in the NFL.
Carey must win either the Maxwell, Doak Walker or Walter Camp award to make this ranking a reality. He certainly is in position to make that happen. After leading the nation in running last season, Carey ranks second this year behind Boston College's Andre Williams.
Given the magnitude of the NFL, if Carey goes on to have a stellar career and plays in the Super Bowl, etc., he could move up to the No. 1 ranking here.
2. Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam has the accomplishments to be the greatest athlete in Arizona Wildcats history, topping her male counterparts.
Sorenstam is not only the greatest golfer in Arizona Wildcats history, she is one of the world's most successful in the history of the sport.
While at Arizona for two years (1991 and 1992), Sorenstam won seven titles. In 1991, she became the first non-American and first freshman to win the individual NCAA national championship. She was the 1991 NCAA Co-Player of the Year with Kelly Robbins, runner-up in the 1992 NCAA National Championship, 1992 Pac-10 champion and a 1991-92 NCAA All-American.
Professionally, she holds the record for most international victories (90), including 72 official LPGA events, 10 of which were majors.
Sorenstam tops the LPGA's career money list with earnings of more than $22 million despite being retired since 2008. Lorena Ochoa, No. 5 on this list of Arizona Wildcats greats, is fourth on the LPGA career earnings list with $14.9 million.
Sorenstam remains visible in the golf world with her course design work, her operation of the ANNIKA Academy (a youth golf instruction facility in Reunion, Fla.) and business ventures under her ANNIKA Foundation.
She is involved with numerous charity functions, including one on Veteran's Day this month in which she hosted a golf clinic for former members of the military at the ANNIKA Academy.
“I appreciate what some of these wounded warriors have done, how they represent us, and the things they have gone through,” Sorenstam told Emily Kay of Examiner.com. “You see the impact golf can have on these people’s lives and it was just a natural thing to help out because I appreciate what they do and this is how I can say thank you and give back.”
Sorenstam added to her trophy case Nov. 14 with the PGA First Lady of Golf award, given to a person who has made significant contributions to the promotion of the game of golf, as reported by Cassie Stein of Golfweek.
1. Sean Elliott
In any discussion regarding the Arizona Wildcats' greatest athletes, the conversation ends with Sean Elliott, a hometown boy made good.
The Tucson Cholla High School graduate is the greatest player in the history of the Arizona basketball program, the most successful program the university has to offer.
Elliott's career 2,555 points are a school record and once topped Lew Alcindor's long-standing conference mark. He won the Wooden Award, given to the nation's most outstanding college basketball player, the equivalent of the Heisman.
He went on to play 12 years in the NBA and won a title with San Antonio in 1999. He was a two-time NBA All-Star, and he scored more than 10,000 points in his NBA career (10,544 to be exact).
The Arizona Wildcats and Spurs each retired Elliott's No. 32 because of his impact with both organizations.
Elliott became more of a national phenomenon after suffering a kidney ailment that required a transplant from his brother shortly after the Spurs' title in 1999. On March 13, 2000, Elliott became the first player to return after a kidney transplant. He announced his retirement in 2001.
Elliott rivals Kerr and former Arizona Wildcats stars Tedy Bruschi (football) and Jennie Finch (softball) as the most popular of former athletes. That's a topic for another ranking.
"If we've learned anything about Sean Elliott over the years, it's that he's as remarkable as they come," Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen wrote during Elliott's kidney ordeal (subscription required).
Hansen also wrote that Elliott is "our favorite son".