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January 28, 2009

Catching up with Clarence Farmer

The early part of this decade was a very rocky period for the Arizona football program, to say the least. From the point previous head coach Dick Tomey was fired, UA hit a bump -- scratch that - ran completely off the road.

The hiring of John Mackovic turned out to be a complete disaster. He ran things his way just like any coach would, but he clashed with players to the point where they rallied against him and eventually got him fired. It happened when he was coaching the Kansas City Chiefs in the mid-80's and again with the Arizona Wildcats.

Right in the middle of the Mackovic controversy was running back Clarence Farmer. Farmer, the 2001 Pac-10 rushing champ, was originally recruited by Tomey and ultimately fell out of favor with Mackovic.

Despite what seemed to be a nasty breakup between a very talented running back and a university, Farmer has put the past behind him. He returned to UA and earned his degree in sociology.

Farmer is now a big follower of the current Wildcats football team. GOAZCATS.com was able to catch up with him to talk about life after football, Dick Tomey and his time at Arizona, among other topics.

GOAZCATS.com: What have you been up to in recent years?

Clarence Farmer: Actually, being a dad is pretty much what I do right now. It's good. I have a supportive wife. I have two little girls. I can't ask for things to be any better. I came back and finished school and am going forward with life, that's about it.

GOAZCATS.com: What are your thoughts on how head coach Mike Stoops and the Arizona football team were able to finish the season?

Clarence Farmer: I'm excited for coach Stoops and the UA. I mean, it's definitely time that UA gets some football recognition. I think with Stoops and the program he has, especially with coach (Sonny) Dykes being the offensive coordinator, that this program has nowhere to go but up. We've seen signs of that for the past three years but this year we actually got over the hump. I am looking forward to the next two-three years where I think UA will be a BCS bowl contender.

GOAZCATS.com: When you arrived at Arizona, the team was just one season removed from the 12-win season, so you have seen what kind of pressure winning puts on a program. How do you compare the situation heading into 2009 to the situation you came into when you were on the team?

Clarence Farmer: The thing I can see now is consistency. When I was there I was under three head coaches and three running back coaches. I really had no consistency being here from my freshman year. When I see the guys now, they have a consistent coach under a consistent regime that they can actually grow with.

It hasn't been pretty for the past five years but you can see the consistent growth in every department. It's consistency that UA hasn't had in years. I think UA will start reaping the benefits of heaving a consistent head football coach for the next few years.

GOAZCATS.com: You actually spent some times in a couple of NFL camps. Talk about how that experience was.

Clarence Farmer: When I had the opportunity to go and play in the NFL camps I think I came in with a black cloud hanging over my head. I didn't go into the NFL with a clean slate. Given everything that happened here, I don't think I went into the NFL with everything working to my advantage.

I won't go into detail but going back to consistency and having a coach that can vouch for his players, I think that's the beginning of a strong and stable program. When I was there (in NFL camps) I definitely felt that I was a capable athlete playing running back on all the teams that I had been through. But given all of the baggage that came from the UA when I was there and the turmoil that we had been through, I think that played a huge factor in my success in the NFL.

You know, that was a long time ago and this is now. I'm definitely not complaining. I enjoyed my experience in the NFL. It was an all-around good experience.

GOAZCATS.com: How do you think the situation between you, Mackovic and coach Mike Hankwitz has affected your life as a whole?

Clarence Farmer: It affected my life in a huge way. To this day, I feel like I lost millions of dollars just because of (the situation). I came out and did my job and I don't think I was any different from any of the other student-athletes here. Given my prestige, it brought a lot of responsibility and a lot of attention, but at the same time, I am 18, 19-years old. I'm in a situation where I have no stable guidance and no stable advice from anybody across the board.

With that being said, it has affected my life, but you know given this day, I look at it as I'm still breathing. I'm not broken up or anything. I think I am blessed being in the situation I am in.

GOAZCATS.com: Do you think that situation gave you a bad rap?

Clarence Farmer: Yes, I do believe I got a bad rap. Like I said, I don't think I was any different from any typical college athlete. I think the media had a play in it. I think the UA had a play in it. I think the coaching staff had a play in it. I think I had a play in it.

At that time, during that era, politically, I do not know what their agenda was. I don't know what they were trying to prove. When I say "they", it applies to anyone with an agenda for me. I don't know what people were trying to prove then but as we speak to this day and as I look back and it shed a lot on reality and what this world is all about. With that being said, you take it with a grain of salt and keep moving.

GOAZCATS.com: After leaving on such a bad note with the university, what brought you back to Arizona after all you had been through?

Clarence Farmer: To be honest with you, it was a number of things, because I really didn't want to have anything to do with UA after the way I felt the university hadn't stuck up for me in the end and the athletic department scrutinized me and didn't have my back in the end.

With that being said, I came back because I had a friend that I went to high school with that played at the University of Wisconsin and he advised me to come back to UA because this is pretty much where I went to school and you will always be known here at school, but the main reason I came back was to get my degree.

Honestly, I didn't have anybody to turn to and it was actually Lance Briggs who offered me the opportunity to come back and actually work out with him. I wanted to go back, to try out and play in the NFL again, but I came down here with a backup plan of going to school.

One thing led to another and I was in position to where I wanted to play football, but looking at the age, looking at the timeframe and looking at the life of a NFL player and looking at where I was in school, I thought school was more important to me at the time than playing football.

Granted, the stint I had here at UA and the glimpse of the NFL; that was definitely a privilege and I enjoyed that but I just had to put some things into perspective and look at what was important and that was getting my degree.

Like I said, if it weren't for Lance Briggs and my teammate in high school I don't think I would have ever been back at UA. I probably would have transferred to another school because I really felt like I got a raw deal. But, you know there just comes a point where I feel like you have situations where you require more maturity. It was a perfect time for me to show who I am as a person rather than let an old situations get the best of me.

GOAZCATS.com: Speaking of raw deals, do you believe Dick Tomey was given one?

Clarence Farmer: It's funny you ask that because I was just thinking to myself, when I came in under coach Tomey, I felt we had a way better team than coach Stoops teams'. Nothing against Coach Stoops but we had far better athletes.

First of all, just looking on defense we had Michael Jolivette, we had Antonio Pierce, we had Lance Briggs, we had Ben Alualu, we had Young Thompson, we had Joe Tafoya, we had Jermaine Chatman, we had Clay Hardt, David Laudermilk. I mean, on the defensive side, we had animals on defense.

On the offensive side with Ortege Jenkins, a lot of people don't remember Kyle Slager. Kyle Slager was the backup to Ortege Jenkins. Jason Johnson was a good quarterback but he came in at the perfect time because he came in and got his opportunity right when Coach Mackovic came in because that was a perfect fit for him, but Kyle Slager was the quarterback coming up after Ortege Jenkins.

In the backfield you had myself, Mike Detwiler, Leo Mills, Anthony Fulcher, Tremaine Cox. We had the total package. Then on the end you had Brandon Marshall, Bobby Wade, Andrae Thurman. You know, we had weapons all across the board. At tight end we had Steve Fleming, Tony Hugo.

On the offensive line - and they have a great offensive line now - at the time we had Makoa Freitas, Kevin Barry, Steve Grace and Darren Safranek. We had a decent group of people, given Coach Tomey, if he would have stayed another year, we would have been a team to be reckoned with.

I think we had all the components in the right place to actually put UA football on another level. It was strange coming in the first year, having coach Tomey come into my living room and talk to and offer me scholarship in my living room. For me to play under him for one year and for him to get fired was definitely a blow. I guess that was the beginning of my UA woes, but you take your punches and you roll with them.

I think with that transition, dealing with coach Tomey being fired I think, and it's kind of crazy, but I think that situation in itself kind of allowed me or prepped me for some of the bad stuff in college football.

I looked up to coach Tomey. I admired coach Tomey. He's a great person. His wife, Nanci, is a great person. Very helpful, resourceful people. So, with that being said, I think, and like I said it goes back to consistency, looking at coach Tomey, in the years he had been here and the things he had done with the program, it goes back to consistency.

Coach Tomey was a coach here at UA for a consistent tenure and I think that is a huge factor in the success of any football program.

GOAZCATS.com: Do you have a favorite moment from your playing days at Arizona?

Clarence Farmer: My favorite moment; I have several. I can't sit here and say there's one. I look at my very first play in college football against Utah in Utah, playing against Steve Smith and that high-powered offense. It kind of defines how things are in my life at this point right now.

It was third-and-long from our own one-yard, trying to get out and they handed me the ball on third-and-one. I didn't gain a yard and I didn't lose a yard. I kept the ball in play and we didn't make the first down but I felt like I kept the ball in play so we didn't turn the ball over because of a safety. Being a true freshman for your very first play, that says a lot to me as a person and that says a lot to how my coach, at the time, counted on me.

We had a couple of guys and some different choices that we could have done, but at that point in time, coach felt he could call me number. Being a true freshman, that was one of the vivid memories I can remember about my college career.

GOAZCATS.com: You are starting up some type of boot camp, is that correct?

Clarence Farmer: Yeah, for those guys, it's called C-Farm Boot Camp. It's a fitness camp and it should be open in Mid-February and it will be for four weeks. I will have more information but if you are interested in joining C-Farm Boot Camp, you can contact me, I will give you my email address which is clarenceufarmer@yahoo.com. You can email me anytime for more information.

If you want to get into shape or if you are trying to get to that next level of health and fitness you can give me a shout on email.

GOAZCATS.com: Is there anything you wanted to say to the Arizona fans?

Clarence Farmer: Arizona fans: Hang in there. UA is actually on the rise. We will be BCS contenders in the next three years. I'm saying that as a former player. I think that if these coaches have the freedom to do what they are capable of doing, UA football will be one to reckon with.

Jason Nimrichter

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