Bondurant with fan

Tra’Mayne Bondurant has worked hard to regain his coaches’ favor. Photo by Wildcat Universe

Tra’Mayne Bondurant ran through the Utah rain, on his way to scoring the touchdown that would seal the Arizona Wildcats’ huge road victory.

It was a far cry from the start of training camp when the senior was completely removed from the UA roster.

Bondurant’s story is far from alone on this Arizona team of second chances.

“Tra’Mayne Bondurant had some discipline things that he had to do, and he chose to leave the program, so he’s no longer a Wildcat as of today.” -Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez in August

Bondurant worked his way back onto the team, paid his dues on special teams and eventually regained his starting position. By the time the Wildcats faced Washington State four weeks ago the reconciled safety was a game captain and he’s scored a defensive touchdown in each of the last two contests.

“i hope your entire family dies of cancer” –Twitter user after USC game

Kicker Casey Skowron learned every expletive, death threat and disease type the dark side of the internet has to offer after missing the game-ending field goal that led to Arizona’s first defeat of the season. Rodriguez publicly defended his kicker, never reduced his role and four games later Skowron was getting carried off the field as a conquering hero.

“The coaches, and myself particularly, felt that [Anu Solomon] was playing the best out of all four quarterbacks.” –Rodriguez before start of 2014 season

Jesse Scroggins may be on his fourth or fifth chance. The senior quarterback signed with USC out of high school, ended up a junior college, transferred to the UA, got beat out by B.J. Denker last year and beat out by Solomon this year. Yet there was Scroggins, coming off the bench at the half in a crucial game in Salt Lake City. He only completed three passes but, to borrow a basketball term, his plus-minus was +18 to help keep the Cats’ big dreams alive.

“While both victim and witness were conversing, the suspect decided to punch the victim one time with a closed fist to the victim’s face on his right side.” –Affidavit detailing alleged assault in 2013

Austin-native Cayleb Jones stayed home to become the next Longhorn superstar but found himself on the wrong side of a love triangle and breaking the jaw of a male tennis player. The felony was reduced to a misdemeanor, Jones received probation and subsequently transferred to Arizona where he has stayed out of trouble for two years.

The redshirt sophomore receiver scored six touchdowns in his first four games as a Wildcat. He continues to lead the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown grabs.

“The last three years have been such a debacle — some day, it all will seem like a bad dream. There has been too much blame, too much paranoia and not nearly enough true leadership. The University of Michigan is so much better than this.” –Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg after Rodriguez’s firing

This Wildcat roster is filled with redemption stories but there is none bigger than that of the man who assembled the roster. RichRod’s time in Ann Arbor has been documented, dissected and debated and will always be a sizable chapter in his life story.

Rodriguez’s 37 games at Arizona have proven, however, that it wasn’t the end of the tale.

RichRod immediately settled scores with some of Arizona’s short– and long-term nemeses. He has made it abundantly clear that Wildcat fans should never, ever, ever, leave a game early.

The UA program under Rodriguez has been ahead of schedule from the start. Eight wins with a no-name defense in 2012. Another eight wins with an unknown at quarterback in 2013. And now, after losing the players responsible for 75% of its touchdowns last year, Arizona has nine wins with (at least) two games to play in 2014.

It’s a perfect fit. The program whose greatest claim to fame is what it hasn’t won, run by a coach who was infamously fired, filled with players needing another shot after making mistakes and suffering setbacks. Redemption U.

Heading into the biggest Territorial Cup game in history, this team of second chances still has a chance to finish first.

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