Tampa Bay's Rob Gronkowski, right, runs away from a crowd of Jets defenders during their Jan. 2 game.

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The 17-game, 18-week NFL regular season came to a close last week. It was another year of production for several Tucsonans and former Arizona Wildcats in the NFL.

Here’s a look at how each one fared, along with their postseason matchup if their respective teams qualified for the playoffs:

Gary Brightwell, RB, New York Giants

Tucson connection: Brightwell is a former UA running back.

The rundown: As a rookie backup to Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker, Brightwell had one rush and one reception in the Giants’ 4-13 season. In December, Brightwell returned to Tucson with his Giants teammates. The club practiced at the UA football facilities.

What’s next: Offseason.

Matt Bushman, TE, Las Vegas Raiders/Kansas City Chiefs

Tucson connection: Bushman is a Sabino High School graduate.

The rundown: The former BYU star was an undrafted addition to the Raiders’ practice squad, then signed with Kansas City just before the playoffs.

What’s next: Chiefs vs. Steelers, 6:15 p.m. Sunday (Ch. 4)

Jeff Cotton, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Tucson connection: Cotton is a graduate of Mountain View High School.

The rundown: The former Idaho standout played on the Jaguars’ practice squad before making his NFL debut on Jan. 2.

What’s next: Offseason.

Dane Cruikshank, DB, Tennessee Titans

Tucson connection: Cruikshank played in the UA’s secondary

The rundown: As a backup strong safety and nickel back, Cruikshank tabbed 43 tackles during the regular season for the top-seeded Titans. He added one pass deflection.

What’s next: The top-seeded Titans have a first-round bye.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, LB, San Francisco 49ers

Tucson connection: Flannigan-Fowles attended Tucson High and Mountain View High School and played collegiately at the UA.

The rundown: As a linebacker-safety hybrid and special teams standout, Flannigan-Fowles totaled 29 tackles in the regular season. He played 163 defensive snaps.

What’s next: 49ers vs. Cowboys, 2:40 p.m. Sunday (Ch. 13/Nickelodeon)

Nick Foles, QB, Chicago Bears

Tucson connection: Foles is the Wildcats’ all-time leading passer.

The rundown: “St. Nick” delivered once again as the backup quarterback, when the Bears outlasted the Seahawks 25-24 in snowy Seattle on Dec. 26. Foles went 24 for 35 for 250 yards and a touchdown. Foles is entering the final season of his three-year, $24 million contract with Chicago.

What’s next: Offseason.

Nick Folk, K, New England Patriots

Tucson connection: Folk is a former Wildcats placekicker.

The rundown: Folk had arguably his best season of his 14-year NFL career, making a career-best 33 field goals on 36 attempts (92.3%). The last time Folk had more than 30 made field goals was in 2014 with the New York Jets. This season, Folk was 11 for 11 on field goals between 40 and 49 yards and was 5 for 8 on 50-plus-yard field goals.

What’s next: Patriots vs. Bills, 6:15 p.m. Saturday (Ch. 13)

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tucson connection: “Gronk” is a former UA star.

The rundown: ’Twas a memorable year for one of the greatest tight ends of all time. After catching a football dropped over 600 feet from a helicopter at his old stomping grounds in Tucson, Gronkowski had 55 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns with the Bucs. His seven-catch, 137-yard performance to end the regular season delivered an additional $1 million in contract bonuses. Now Gronk looks to become the only Pac-12 product in conference history to win five Super Bowls.

What’s next: Eagles vs. Bucs, 11:05 a.m. Sunday (Ch. 11)

P.J. Johnson, DT, Las Vegas Raiders

Tucson connection: Johnson is a former UA defensive tackle.

The rundown: After he was waived by the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks, Johnson signed a practice-squad deal with the Raiders in November.

What’s next: Raiders vs. Bengals, 1:35 p.m. Saturday (Ch. 4)

Roy Lopez, DT, Houston Texans

Tucson connection: Lopez is a former Wildcats defensive lineman. His father, also named Roy, is the former head football coach at Sunnyside High School.

The rundown: The sixth-round pick of the 2021 NFL draft recorded 31 tackles. His first and only sack was against the Miami Dolphins in November. Lopez’s salsa dancing celebration after the sack trended on social media for that weekend.

What’s next: Offseason.

Blake Martinez, LB, New York Giants

Tucson connection: Martinez is a graduate of Canyon del Oro High School.

The rundown: A torn ACL robbed Martinez of the second year of his three-year, $30.7 million deal in New York.

What’s next: Offseason.

Will Parks, S, New York Jets

Tucson connection: Parks was a UA safety under coach Rich Rodriguez.

The rundown: The former Bronco, Eagle and Chief was a free agent until November, when he signed a practice-squad deal with the 49ers. He moved on to the Dolphins before being added to the Jets’ active roster on Dec. 21. He finished 2021 with nine tackles and one pass deflection.

What’s next: Offseason.

J.J. Taylor, RB, New England Patriots

Tucson connection: Taylor is a former Arizona running back

The rundown: Taylor rushed 19 times for 37 yards and two touchdowns.

What’s next: Patriots vs. Bills, 6:15 p.m. Saturday (Ch. 13)


Tucson High grad Levi Wallace moved back into the Bills' starting lineup following an injury to Tre'Davious White.

Levi Wallace, CB, Buffalo Bills

Tucson connection: Wallace is a Tucson High graduate

The rundown: Wallace finished the regular season with 58 tackles and two interceptions. He moved back in to the starting lineup following an injury to Pro Bowl cornerback Tre’Davious White.

What’s next: Patriots vs. Bills, 6:15 p.m. Saturday (Ch. 13)

Jace Whittaker, CB, Arizona Cardinals

Tucson connection: Whittaker is a former UA cornerback.

The rundown: In two appearances this season, Whittaker had three tackles.

What’s next: Cardinals vs. Rams, 6:15 p.m. Monday (ESPN)

Contact sports producer Justin Spears at 573-4312 or jspears@tucson.com. On Twitter: @JustinESports

This article originally ran on tucson.com.


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