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Kevin Sumlin returned to the ‘Swag Copter’ to recruit Arizona prospects

Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin answers questions during the Pac-12 Conference NCAA college football Media Day Wednesday, July 24, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

In September of 2015, the chopping sound of an approaching helicopter snagged the attention from fans in the football stadium at Rockwall High School in Texas.

Who would take a helicopter to watch high school football?

After the chopper touched down in the field behind the stadium, Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and other Aggies recruiters stepped out and were carted to the game.

Over Sumlin’s tenure at A&M, he busted out what was nicknamed the “Swag Copter” several times to travel to different high schools around the region.

Last Friday, Sumlin, now coaching Arizona, made his return to the air during the Wildcats’ bye week.

Using the helicopter, Sumlin reached two schools in Phoenix in one night. He first landed in Goodyear to watch Millenium High School take on Higley. Then he hopped back into the chopper and flew to Buckeye to see part of the Odyssey Institue-Florence game.

He was likely focused on defensive ends Jason Harris (Higley) and Regen Terry (Florence), who both listed Arizona as a finalist in their college choices.

The strategy may be “flashy,” but that is not the reason Sumlin uses it.

“We actually started it out of necessity,” Sumlin said on Monday. “When you’re out trying to see multiple games in Phoenix or Houston, it’s basically impossible at six o’clock on a Friday afternoon.

“It gave us the opportunity (at Texas A&M) to be with our players at practice on Thursday and still get to games in Houston or East Texas. Same thing last week. I was able to see two different games and bounce across Phoenix. It was a productive weekend.”

Obviously, this is a more expensive way of going about recruiting than the conventional.

But, getting from Millenium to Florence High School easily takes over an hour. Being able to jump over the traffic below allows Sumlin to be at more games in person, which he values considerably.

“We’re trying to get me to as many places as we can so that we have relationships with those coaches and communities and so that people know that we’re serious about recruiting there,” Sumlin said. “You have to have resources to evaluate players and our administration (Arizona) understands that.”

Sumlin will likely stay out of the sky this week as his team prepares for UCLA to come to Tucson on Saturday.

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