TUCSON, Ariz. — It seems so long ago that big Jacob Arzouman was considered one of the prized recruits of the Mike Stoops era. A big offensive lineman, he was considered one of the best in the west and definitely one of the best in Arizona.
But he sat out as a redshirt two years ago and then last year — about 11 months ago – suffered a severe knee injury that kept him out all season, meaning the 6-foot-6 behemoth has yet to see the field.
He’s back now, though, as one of Arizona’s hometown heroes as a Tucson Salpointe Catholic product, and he’s ready to make his mark.
FOXSportsArizona.com sat down with Arzouman recently to talk about the upcoming season.
FSAZ: How was it sitting out last season with the injury?
Arzouman: It was tough. It was the first time I had had been seriously injured. It was kind of hard to deal with. It took a little while. Fortunately, in some ways you’ve had a lot of guys who have had ACL injuries, so it works in my advantage because there were a lot of guys I could talk to when I was having trouble (coping). It was tough at first, but when you start getting into the swing of things … right now my whole goal is getting ready for camp. I’m excited.
FSAZ: How was it for you last year when you had to watch?
Arzouman: I was stoked for their success. There’s a tiny part of it where you want to be there. It’s not like you want them to do bad because I’m not there. It was exciting. I was on the sideline for most of the games. It was a lot of fun even though I couldn’t play.
FSAZ: Were you able to get any type of work in this spring?
Arzouman: Not really. Just some light contact. We were just testing it out. I went full (speed) a couple of days, but it didn’t feel right, so we backed it off pretty quick.
FSAZ: The injury happened the first week of practice last year after sitting out the previous year. What went through your mind when it happened?
Arzouman: It was really tough. It occurred the fourth practice of camp. It felt wrong when I went down. After the initial pain, I was able to get up and walk. I thought I might have overreacted to it or twisted it. But they did their test and knew right away it was torn. It’s frustrating, because you work all offseason and spring and then you can’t play at all. That’s why I’ve worked hard this past year. I’ve had all year to prepare for this year, where other people have been preparing for this since January.
FSAZ: It was just four practices in. What type of headway were you hoping to make — or making?
Arzouman: I was trying to fight for a starting spot. Mickey Baucus and Fabs (Fabbians Ebbele) were out. That gave me the opportunity to work with the first group. I had been working with them until the injury. Obviously, it’s hard to beat out an established starter. But I wanted to try to push them. Even if I wasn’t going to start, I was trying to push them.
FSAZ: Looks like you’ve lost a lot of weight. How have you transformed your body?
Arzouman: I got in a lot better shape. Problem is to get that weight back on. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in even though I am a little lighter. When I first came here, I was about 290 pounds. When I got hurt, I was at 280. In the spring, I was about 265 and am right now, but in the best shape. I’m stronger than I ever was. I’d like to get back to 280-285 pounds. You’ve gotta have weight to be able to throw yourself around.
FSAZ: Where do you see yourself playing at this season?
Arzouman: I’ll be everywhere on the line. That’s the one thing coach has taught us: You’ve got to be able to play all the positions and be able to play anywhere.
FSAZ: Being that you’re from Tucson, is there any pressure on you to do well?
Arzouman: I don’t know. I don’t think about it. When you’re an offensive lineman, most people don’t see what you do. It’s not like the same for me compared to a guy like Ka’Deem Carey (Tucson Canyon Del Oro). But speaking about the hometown thing, I love seeing Ka’Deem do well. Carey being from Tucson, everyone loves that. I don’t think there’s that much pressure. But I put a lot of pressure on myself. But from outsiders, there’s not much.
FSAZ: So you’re looking forward to a good year?
Arzouman: Yes, because I’ve had far too long to think about this season. I’ve put in a lot of work. That’s one of the biggest things that I realized. They tell us to do all this stuff (to get better), but in order to take the extra level, you have to put in time even when you are not there. After spring ball, I was running stadium steps twice a week. After we were done lifting (weights), I’d go and do it for another hour. Or I’d watch film. It was about getting things done.
FSAZ: How do you look at it personally?
Arzouman: It’s a chance to prove myself. I haven’t played in a competitive game in nearly three years — and that was at the end of high school. It’s been a long time.
FSAZ: How is that, being a competitor?
Arzouman: You can ask my roommates. I do not like to lose. I’m one of the most competitive players you’ll ever want to meet. Here we are in the last couple of weeks before (camp starts), and you start to get antsy. But we’ll put pads and stuff on soon enough, and that’s when it starts to get real.