Pima College coach Pat Nugent has had his eyes on Tyler D'Amore for a few years.
After watching D'Amore's stellar career as Ironwood Ridge's quarterback - he was recently picked the fifth-best player in Nighthawks' history by the Star - Nugent had visions of D'Amore leading a turnaround after Pima's middling 3-8 season in 2011.
"He's a guy that we wanted to turn our program around," Nugent said.
Instead, D'Amore played spring ball as a walk-on for Rich Rodriguez at the UA.
When that ended, D'Amore announced a transfer to Pima that never came to fruition, as D'Amore opted for the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers in Division II instead. And Pima bottomed out with a 1-10 record in 2012.
Now, a year later, Nugent finally got his man.
"He's a talented kid," the coach said. "But more importantly, he's a winner."
And even though Nugent has been angling for D'Amore for two years, he's still not handing him the starting job under center.
Since fall camp started last week, D'Amore is in the midst of a battle for the starting job with Jack Nykaza, another former UA walk-on who played spring ball with the Wildcats four months ago.
"We'll see what happens," D'Amore said. "The best man will get out there and play, the one who gives us the best chance to win.
"I'm happy where I am. I learned a lot in my experiences and it's exciting. I'm excited about this year, and I'm having fun playing football again back home."
The Star spoke with D'Amore at practice this week as Pima prepares for its Aug. 24 season opener at Arizona Western. Here's what he said:
How's the competition with Jack (Nykaza) so far?
A: "It's going great. We're pushing each other, making each other a lot better. Making sure we help each other when we need help and pushing each other when we need competition, and it's working out great."
How much does it help to have two guys like you and Jack with your experience?
A: "Especially with the young team at a JC level, it's great. It's great to have that, great to have experienced coaches all around us. It's nice that we're on the same level because we've been to the same places."
Talk about your experience with Arizona …
A: "It was great, playing under the best coach in college football: I personally think that of Coach Rodriguez. It was great and I learned a lot, learned a lot about timing, learned a lot about being competitive in the game. I've been to a few places, like Nebraska-Kearney and Arizona, and I just take it all in."
And why did you decide to leave Arizona - so you could get playing time?
A: "Yeah, I can't sit from the sidelines and watch. I need a chance to play. That's the main reason I left Arizona. I'm happy where I am. I learned a lot in my experiences."
Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4145. On Twitter @ZackBlatt