Tale of the tape: Tedy Bruschi, Rob Gronkowski set to match wits in Arizona spring game

Arizona defensive end Tedy Bruschi downs USC quarterback Rob Johnson during Arizona Wildcats vs. USC in Tucson on Oct. 22, 1993. Arizona won, 38-7.

Jedd Fisch became fast friends with Tedy Bruschi after securing the Arizona job. Suddenly, they had much in common.

Bruschi starred for the Wildcats in the 1990s. He went on to play his entire NFL career for the New England Patriots, for whom Fisch worked last year.

Fisch hired Bruschi as a senior advisor on Feb. 1. Bruschi would continue to live in the Northeast and work for ESPN, but he’d communicate with Fisch and the team remotely. His first visit would be the April 24 spring game.

Fisch wasn’t satisfied, though. He envisioned a “coaching” matchup between UA greats. So Fisch persuaded Rob Gronkowski to participate in the spring game as well.

Gronkowski, who authored a first-ball Hall of Fame career with the Patriots and is still playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hasn’t set foot on the UA campus in about a decade. That’s about to change.

Here’s a quick look at the vitals for the two honorary captains in the spring game, which is slated for noon Saturday at Arizona Stadium:

Tedy Bruschi

Age: 47

Hometown: Roseville, California

Height/weight: 6-1, 247

Position: Defensive end/linebacker

At Arizona: Bruschi recorded 52 sacks — at the time tied for the most in NCAA history — and was a key member of the dominant ‘Desert Swarm’ defenses of the early 1990s.

NFL draft: 1996, third round, 86th pick, New England Patriots

NFL by the numbers: 13 seasons, 189 games, 680 tackles, 30.5 sacks, 12 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries,

Super Bowl rings: 3 (2001, ’03, ’04 seasons)

Notable honors:

Two-time consensus All-American (1994, ’95)

Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year (1995)

Morris Trophy (1995)

Two-time second-team All-Pro (2003, ’04)

NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2005)

College Football Hall of Fame (2013)

Off the field: A survivor of two strokes — including one during his playing career — Bruschi and his wife, former UA volleyball player Heidi Bomberger Bruschi, raise awareness and support other stroke survivors through “Tedy’s Team.” Bruschi has worked as an NFL analyst for over a decade and this year became a senior advisor to first-year UA coach Jedd Fisch.

Jedd Fisch says: “Tedy Bruschi represents everything we want from our student-athletes. He knows what it takes to do things right on and off the field and has demonstrated success in all facets of life throughout the years. Tedy is a true friend and ally who understands what it takes to win: respect, accountability, selflessness and enthusiasm.”

Rob Gronkowski

Age: 31

Hometown: Williamsville, New York

Height/weight: 6-6, 268

Position: Tight end

At Arizona: Gronkowski caught 75 passes for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns in 22 games — earning multiple league and national accolades — before missing 2009, his junior season, because of a back injury.

NFL draft: 2010, second round, 42nd pick, New England Patriots

NFL by the numbers: 10 seasons, 131 games, 566 receptions, 8,464 yards, 15.0 yards-per-catch average, 86 touchdowns,

Super Bowl rings: 4 (2014, ’16, ’18, ’20 seasons)

Notable honors:

First-team All-Pac-10 (2008)

Third-team All-American (2008)

Four-time first-team All-Pro (2011, ’14, ’15, ’17)

NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2014)

NFL 2010s All-Decade Team

NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team

Off the field: One of football’s biggest personalities, Gronkowski has appeared in multiple commercials, television shows and films. He and his brothers also founded the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, which is “dedicated to inspiring youth to reach their maximum potential through sports, education, community and fitness.”

Jedd Fisch says: “I got a chance to be around him a few years ago when I was visiting New England. Coaching in New England, even though he wasn’t there, you still kind of have that brothers-in-bond. A lot of the coaches on that staff in Tampa are very close friends of mine, so I know that were on him pretty quick (after Fisch got the UA job). I talked to him (recently), and he was fired up about coming in next weekend.”