There are plenty of memorable dates in University of Arizona sports lore, but only a few that rise to the level of "I know where I was when" territory. During my tenure in Southern Arizona, there have been at least two of those.
One is March 31, 1997, when the UA basketball team won the national title in Indianapolis, pulling off the most amazing run in NCAA tournament history by beating Kentucky in overtime for its unprecedented (and still unmatched) third win over a No. 1 seed in the same tourney.
I was a sophomore at the UA and as soon as the final buzzer sounded I ran out of my dorm to celebrate, and found that hundreds of other students had done so as well. The UA Mall became a sea of elation and, shortly after the sprinklers came on, an impromptu mud bath to put Woodstock '94 to shame.
Another memorable date is Dec. 15, 2012, which began with an amazing comeback by the UA football team to beat Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl and ended with Mark Lyons' last-second basket sending the hoops team to a win over unbeaten Florida at McKale Center.
Now you can add last Saturday, May 10, to the list of great days in UA sports history, if for nothing more than because it marked a career crossroads for two of the school's best athletes ever.
Saturday was when Kenzie Fowler said goodbye to softball, possibly forever, while Ka'Deem Carey said hello to the next step in his dream of becoming a professional football player.
Fowler, a two-time national high school player of the year, and Carey, UA football's most prolific running back ever, are both Canyon del Oro High School graduates. She graduated in 2009 and he got his diploma in 2011, and both ended their high school careers by leading their teams to state championships.
Many tears were shed Saturday for (and by) Fowler and Carey, but for very different reasons.
For Fowler, her brief pitching stint at Hillenbrand Stadium was probably the last time she'll be inside a pitching circle as a player. She started for Arizona in its regular-season finale against top-ranked Oregon, but was replaced after just one pitch by Estela Piñon (herself a pretty darn good local athlete, via Sunnyside High). Fowler left to a standing ovation that was the loudest heard at Hillenbrand in quite a while.
Earlier in the week, Fowler was told her career was over following a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome in her left shoulder. Though not her throwing side, it is the same ailment (blood vessels and nerves compress between ribs, causing severe pain and numbness in the arm, hand and fingers) that occurred in her right shoulder as a high school sophomore. It resulted in multiple blood clots that required surgery and nearly ended her pitching career right then.
But after extensive rehab, Fowler led CDO to the 2008 and 2009 state titles, then was an All-American with Arizona in 2010 and 2011. She was the Wildcats' first All-American as a freshman since Caitlin Lowe in 2004. During her first two years at UA she went 64-18 and was well on her way to crushing most school pitching records.
Then the injuries started to mount again. Her junior year had some bumps that affected her numbers, and in 2013 she sat out the entire season following back surgery. This year, she was 8-6 but appeared in only 25 of Arizona's 54 games, missing time after being struck by a batted ball. She logged just 66 innings as a fifth-year senior.
The tears that Carey shed Saturday were probably a combination of relief and disbelief. He couldn't believe he was actually going to be an NFL running back. At the same time, he must have felt like a huge weight was lifted from his shoulders after going through the grinder that is having your collegiate performance and your pre-NFL draft workouts dissected by dozens of scouts and so-called experts.
Carey was playing dominos on the floor of a relative's house on Saturday morning when he heard the news on TV that he had been selected by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the draft. A few minutes later, he got a call from the Bears and learned he was to report to a rookie training camp this week. (Yes, that means he's going from yelling "Bear Down" to being a Bear on every down. You can't make this stuff up.)
It was a great moment for a player who, despite all the promise in the world, looked like he was trying to throw it all away a little more than a year ago. In case you don't remember, after leading the nation in rushing as a sophomore in 2012, Carey went through a period where he was convinced his fecal matter had no odor.
There were the multiple traffic citations and the "Do you know who I am?" moment when he was kicked out of McKale during a basketball game for not having a ticket for his seat. There was also a domestic violence charge stemming from an altercation with his pregnant ex-girlfriend. The case was eventually dropped because of what the City Prosecutor's Office said was an unavailable witness, but what really happened was that Carey and Marissa Rambow reconciled.
The two are raising their son, Kaison, together, and the 10-month-old is a regular topic on Carey's Twitter feed.
Carey was suspended for the first game of the 2013 season because of his offseason issues, but then he picked up right where he left off with another amazing season. It prompted the NFL's Draft Advisory Board to rate Carey high enough that he made the choice to go pro early. But a subpar performance in the draft combine and out-of-nowhere knocks on his skill set caused his draft stock to plummet.
That just means Carey will have additional people to prove wrong. And his selection by Chicago may make the Bears the unofficial favorite team of UA football fans because their roster includes former Wildcats Lance Briggs, Eben Britton and Fendi Onobun.
So, where were you last Saturday?