Change not limited to football for new Cats
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez stepped on stage Sunday afternoon before the football team's meet-and-greet session and told the crowd that some of his newcomers are still learning how to shave, let alone play football at the Division I level.
The first part of the term "student-athlete" also can get lost in the shuffle as 18-year-olds try to adjust to being away from home for the first time, in most cases, and preparing for classes that start Monday morning. Some of the newest Wildcats are still trying to balance everyday responsibilities while also continuing to learn the UA playbook.
But, off the field, the team also has plenty to learn about one another. There are more than 30 freshmen and junior college transfers in a Wildcats uniform this season, and at least one player hails from either Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania or Texas.
So what's been the biggest adjustment for most of the 2012 class?
"I think the language is definitely different, the speech is definitely different," freshman running back J.T. Washington, an Indialantic, Fla., native told GOAZCATS.com. "People can't really understand me, most of the time.
"I've always got to repeat myself two or three times before they really get what I said. It's like everybody, in general, not even football. Just regular people that are like, 'Um, I didn't hear that. Could you repeat that?'"
And there are plenty of distinct accents on the team, ranging from wide receiver Jarrell Bennett's New Orleans twang to linebacker Keoni Bush-Loo's mellow Hawaiian tone.
Yet, it's the ones like junior backup quarterback B.J. Denker and the others from California who are told they are the ones who speak differently.
"Trey (Griffey) and J.T., I really can understand what they say," Bennett said. "It's hard to understand the other people from like California, Pittsburgh …"
However, Denker, who spent the past three years including a redshirt season at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif., said not much has changed for him because of the diversity on the West Coast.
"There's a mixture of everybody," Denker said. "Everyone has different backgrounds, different stories. It's just about being a good teammate and making lifelong friends."
While there are those such as Washington and wide receiver Trey Griffey who made the move clear across the country, it is Bush-Loo who made the farthest trek from home. The 6-4, 229-pounder is from Ewa Beach, Hawaii - more than 4,300 miles away from Tucson.
For a person coming in from a state that is known for its share of volcanoes as well as delicacies, the scenery and food were among the bigger changes for Bush-Loo - and it's the adjustments in weather such as Tucson's monsoons that are "weird."
"It's a whole different place," Bush-Loo said. "People are a lot different, the food is different - especially, the food. The big thing is the weather. It is a big change, still trying to get adjusted to it.
"Can't play the ukulele and sing anymore. My voice is cracked from yelling on the field. So, I'm still trying to get adjusted but I like it out here.
"You have a lot of rain and just all the clouds that come out. I'm not really used to it. There's floods in the streets and stuff. It's pretty cool to see something new."
Speaking of food, nobody was more concerned about the move than defensive back William Parks, who is from Philadelphia. Before reporting to campus for summer workouts, Parks told GOAZCATS.com that the one thing he would miss most about home was the famous cheesesteaks.
But since arriving in town, Parks said he's since discovered Frankie's - which specializes in making authentic Philly cheesesteaks and is just five minutes from campus.
"I went in there and the guy was like, 'Are you from Philly?'" Parks recalled. "I was like, 'Yeah.' Because of the way I ordered it - I said salt, pepper, ketchup, mayonnaise and fried onions - and he was like, 'You sound like a Philly dude.'"
The cheesesteak earned his stamp of approval, proving that even a 2,400-mile move can still feel like home.
Click Here to view this Link.Tracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor