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Ex-Arizona LB teammates to meet when West Virginia takes on Texas Tech

Fields leads the West Virginia Mountaineers football team in tackles.
Fields leads the West Virginia Mountaineers football team in tackles.

Tony Fields and Colin Schooler lined up next to each other for three years at Arizona to form one of the most productive linebacker tandems in the country.

Fields, who played the WILL, recorded 287 tackles and 8.5 sacks, while Schooler was the MIKE linebacker and netted 312 tackles and 4 interceptions.

Both players started 37 games during their time in Tucson but elected to leave in the off-season to pursue their options as graduate transfers.

Both would eventually find their way into the Big 12 Conference with Fields deciding on West Virginia and Schooler choosing Texas Tech to close out their careers. But in a twist, the two would flip-flop positions with Fields moving to MIKE and Schooler settling in at WILL in their new defenses.

Now, two teammates who had always worked together on the field now find themselves in a situation that they never could have expected: against each other.

“They both will be weirded out with it all for lack of a better term,” secondary coach Jahmile Addae said. “What I can remember, the time we had them at Arizona you couldn’t find one without the other.”

Addae recruited Fields to Tuscon and was on the Wildcats staff while both players were freshmen. He had watched both develop from afar though and while he was able to reconnect with Fields in Morgantown, he has kept close tabs on Schooler, too.

“I like the way he plays and like the way he approaches the game,” he said.

But how different will it feel? The two won’t square off against each other outside of possibly some special teams plays but it still is a matchup the two have waited to see play out since making their decisions.

For Fields, he admits that he enjoyed facing off against Schooler in practice settings and the two would often chirp back and forth to one another. But despite the competitive angle, the pair are close friends and have remained in contact throughout the transfer process.

That is until this week.

“He circled the day on the calendar because he wants to beat me, but it’s not going to happen. I can’t wait to beat him,” Fields said. “We always compete with each other whether it’s football games or madden or anything so I can’t wait.”

Schooler has always felt a connection to Fields since the two started next to each other always those years and had gone through five different linebacker coaches during their time at Arizona. That led to a bond that has transcended the football field. But he knew as soon as he picked the Red Raiders that a matchup with his close friend was set for the future.

“I knew he was on the schedule. We’ve been talking about it for a while now. It’s going to be weird to start but it’s going to be fun,” Schooler said.

On the field, both have been predictably productive in their new locations with Fields leading West Virginia in tackles with 35 as well as a sack and an interception. Schooler on the other hand has only played in three of the four games for the Red Raiders after arriving late and has 17 total stops.

“If you look at every single play, you’ll see that No. 1 is in the frame near the ball. He’s a problem for offenses and I’m really proud the way he’s been playing this year,” Schooler said.

The feeling is mutual from Fields perspective and both are excited to use this season to showcase their versatility. While they played the other position at Arizona, they have thrived in their new roles.

“It’s not really so much different playing MIKE than WILL,” Fields said.

Now the pair will compete against each other in a game that neither could have imagined at this time last year. But 2020 has been strange for a lot of reasons, so in a lot of ways doesn’t it just make sense?

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