Saying he's excited to "have a chance to pay it forward," former Arizona Wildcats and NFL standout Joe Salave'a was hired Thursday to coach defensive tackles at his alma mater.
Salave'a will start Monday, and coach the Wildcats' defensive line in its Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl game against No. 16 Oklahoma State. He replaces Mike Tuiasosopo, who left last week to take a similar job at the University of Colorado.
"I'm humbled but also excited," Salave'a said. "I'm eager to get there, roll up my sleeves and get to work. … It's a great opportunity, and I'm thrilled that Coach (Mike) Stoops has the confidence in me to make this happen."
Salave'a, 35, played for the UA from 1994 to 1997 and spent nine seasons playing for the NFL's Oilers (now Titans), Chargers and Redskins. In 2008, former UA coach Dick Tomey hired Salave'a to coach the defensive line at San Jose State. Salave'a spent two seasons with the Spartans; this summer, he coached with the Seattle Seahawks as part of the NFL's minority internship program.
Like Tuiasosopo, Salave'a - a native of Leone, American Samoa - has connections to many of the country's top Polynesian recruits. He founded the Joe Salave'a Foundation in 2001 to help teach football to children in Hawaii and American Samoa.
Stoops said Thursday that Salave'a "fits what we're doing very well."
"He has a solid history and comes highly recommended," he said. "Joe built a legacy here and in the NFL that will have an immediate impact on our players and in recruiting."
Stoops said he will wait until after the bowl game to replace co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown, who also has accepted a job at CU.