Every Arizona Football All-American in history: Wide receiver/returner Dennis Northcutt

Northcutt is on Arizona's Mount Rushmore of wide receivers, but he was also a dangerous return man when tasked with special teams duties.
Dennis Northcutt
Dennis Northcutt / Brian Bahr/GettyImages

The Arizona Wildcats are far from the most storied college football program in Division I, and they don't often churn out early-round NFL draft picks. Occasionally though, a player comes along whose greatness is nationally recognized while suiting up in the Red and Blue with the 'Block A' on the helmet.

Six Arizona Football players have been recognized as unanimous first-team All-Americans, and they fall into three neat groups that we've already covered: linebackerscornerbacks, and defensive linemen. Now, we're pivoting into the 12 players recognized as consensus All-Americans. In this series, we'll look at all their Arizona careers position-by-position.

The second non-unanimous All-American we'll be taking a look at piggybacks off of yesterday's dive into kicker Steve McLaughlin. Continuing with the specialists, our next subject is former Arizona wide receiver and return specialist Dennis Northcutt, who is the only Wildcat to ever earn All-American honors as an all-purpose athlete.

Dennis Northcutt

Dennis Northcutt
Dennis Northcutt / Tom Hauck/GettyImages

Northcutt played for Arizona from 1996-99, and he did a little bit of everything during his time in Tucson. When the LA native landed in Tucson for his freshman season in 1996, he saw action in all three phases of the game, notching eight catches for 75 yards and a touchdown, returning four punts and one kick, and grabbing two interceptions — one of which he returned for a pick-six.

In 1997, the Dick Tomey staff decided to get more creative, utilizing him as a general offensive weapon and punt returner. He notched 58 catches for 767 yards and nine touchdowns and six rushing attempts for 105 yards and a touchdown on offense. He flashed just as much on special teams, returning 10 kickoffs for 230 yards — an impressive 23 yards per return on average. His nine touchdowns were a career-high and ranked fourth in the Pac-10.

Northcutt improved to national heights in his junior season in 1998 when he returned a whopping 38 punts — good for third in the Pac-10 and sixth in the country — for 437 yards and 11 kickoffs for 219 yards (19.9 avg). He also caught 63 passes for 922 yards (14.6 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. He finished the season ranked fourth in the conference in receptions and fifth in yards.

With a young Bobby Wade in the wings learning from him, Northcutt had a season for the ages in 1999 to pave the way for the greatness to come. The Pac-10-leading 88 receptions Northcutt grabbed were the most in a single season in program history at the time, and his 1,422 yards still stand as the single-season Arizona record. He was second in the conference and third in the nation in receiving, behind only Stanford's Troy Walters (1,456 yards) and Nevada's Trevor Insley (2,060 yards).

Northcutt was also the most dangerous all-around return specialist in the nation. He took 23 punts (5th nationally) for a conference-leading 436 yards and two touchdowns and nine kickoffs for 191 yards. Northcutt's 19 yards per punt return led the country, and he averaged 21.2 yards every time he returned a kickoff. His two punt return touchdowns were tied for second in the nation, behind only the legendary Steve Smith Sr. at Utah.

He was named a consensus All-American as an athlete instead of a specific position, marking the only time in Arizona history, while also earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors. He left Arizona as the all-time leader in receptions (223) and yards (3,252) while Northcutt's 24 touchdowns ranked second only to Theo Bell (30). He was inducted into the Arizona Hall of Fame in 2013, and still ranks in the top three for many of Arizona's single-season and career receiving records.

Every Arizona Football All-American. AAKicker. Kicker Steve McLaughlin. dark

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