TUCSON, Ariz. — In spring practice, with no glaring spotlight and no pressure, Arizona nose tackle Tevin Hood was referred to by D-line coach Bill Kirelawich as “one tough S.O.B.”
On a football field, that’s about as good a compliment as a defensive lineman can get. And Kirelawich doesn’t mince words.
That came just three or so months after Hood, a 6-foot, 300-pounder, had been disciplined for a much-too-public fight with teammate Cody Ippolito during the New Mexico Bowl, with both players being sent home after embarrassing their school.
That’s behind them now, although Hood, a senior, said it’s still the most often-asked question he gets.
A former walk-on who’s now on scholarship — “it’s a good feeling earning that,” he said — said he’s now focusing on his final season in what turned out to be a cross-country tour of nice (but expensive) schools, ending in Tucson. Duke and San Diego are in his rearview mirror.
Hood is exactly what Arizona needs at the front of its defense: a tough-minded, grinding, get-it-done type.
You’d never know he’s a soft-spoken, thought-provoking man who wants to help kids when football is over.
FOXSportsArizona.com sat down with Hood recently to talk about those topics and more:
FSAZ: How does a kid from Phoenix end up playing at Duke, then San Diego and now Arizona? Duke, specifically.
Hood: Well, (Duke) just wasn’t a good fit, not a good situation with the coaching staff. Not exactly the coaching staff but the head coach. And that’s all I can say.
FSAZ: You weren’t on scholarship to start for the first semester but had hoped to be?
Hood: Yes, there was some dishonesty about that. So I came back.
FSAZ: Why the University of San Diego then?
Hood: “It was my mom’s last-ditch effort to send me to another high-ranking educational institution. Even though it’s not on par with Duke or Stanford, she wanted me to go there. It just wasn’t a fit for me.
FSAZ: Having been at Duke for a bit, did you see the animosity that Arizona has for Duke?
Hood: Yes, ever since that Sweet 16 game (Arizona defeated Duke 93-77 in 2011) — I was at Duke visiting when that game happened — and Duke fans were so angry and UA fans were so happy. I came back here (to UA) and everyone hates Duke. It’s funny that I came here to quote-unquote Duke’s arch-rival.
FSAZ: Do you get a sense that Duke hates Arizona, too?
Hood: Yes, they haven’t let that go. They don’t play around with their basketball.
FSAZ: How do you feel with people talking about you being the cornerstone of the defensive line?
Hood: That’s a role I’m willing to assume. In the 3-3-5 (defense), the nose guard is the cog in the defense, so I feel I am ready to take that role of leader on and let the defense flow from there.
FSAZ: And it’s not so much about getting tackles and numbers but helping to clog the line?
Hood: That’s it. What people don’t talk about, especially people who don’t play that defense understand, is that you’re not going to have a bunch of stats. You won’t have a bunch of highlight plays necessarily, but you interrupt things and make plays.
FSAZ: You understand that. It takes a certain player who isn’t worried about numbers to get that, yes?
Hood: Exactly, because when you play for a team, you can’t be selfish, and that’s all part of it. I need to do the best job at that position, and I can’t be selfish.
FSAZ: How was this summer living with/being around your brother, Jaxon, who plays for ASU? They won last year’s rivalry game in dramatic fashion.
Hood: He talked a little smack, but he didn’t even contribute. And I led the defense in tackles and we barely lost, and he barely played. I told him I didn’t want hear his side of the story. That kind of shut him off.
FSAZ: It was all in fun, of course, but can you describe your relationship because you guys are close?
Hood: I have three younger brothers, but only he and I have the same biological dad so we’re — out of our family — the only ones 100 percent related. We have a special bond. We are only 18 months apart. We grew up together. We’ve always been close.
FSAZ: Your dad is former Cardinals player Eric Swann. Can you speak to that? And the man who raised you is Charles Hood?
Hood: I haven’t seen (Swann) in eight years. Charles Hood is the fire chief in San Antonio, so he lives in Texas. We talk to him all the time. He moved out there when I was in high school.
FSAZ: You were involved in one of the more talked-about incidents on the sidelines, getting caught fighting with Cody Ippolito during the New Mexico Bowl. How did that happen? What happened? Hood: Tensions just flared and manifested in a manner it shouldn’t have. From then, everything has been handled by Coach (Rich) Rodriguez. Everyone is still on the team and everything has been reconciled.
FSAZ: You’re a smart guy, so this must have been a heat-of-the-moment type of thing?
Hood: Stuff like this happens in practice all the time, and it was a bad situation. It just happened that it was perfect timing that the camera happened to be panning over when it was taking place. Otherwise no one would have seen it.
FSAZ: After football is over and done with, what do you want to do?
Hood: I’d like to teach or maybe be a strength coach. I’d like to teach high school English or be a high school administrator, maybe be a high school principal.