Look up Paiton Fears’ high school profile on national recruiting web sites and you won’t find much. Actually, you won’t find anything.
That’s because Fears knew early on that junior college was going to be the route he’d have to take in order to play at the top level of college football, the product of subpar test scores and very few legitimate scholarship offers.
“I don’t think I got the best exposure,” said Fears, who attended high school outside Orlando, Fla. “I talked to my family and I felt like (junior college) was the best route for me.”
Because JUCO football doesn’t exist in the Sunshine State, Fears ended up at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. It only took one season blocking for a rushing attack that averaged 213.6 yards per game for the 6-foot-5, 308-pound Fears to start getting plenty of FBS attention, ranking as the 18th-best JUCO offensive tackle and landing offers from Arizona as well as Baylor, Missouri and West Virginia.
Fears committed to the Arizona Wildcats last December, and less than a month later he was on campus and ready for spring practice. The expectation was he’d contribute immediately on the offensive line, possibly starting right away, but he took nothing for granted.
“I knew nothing was promised to me, I knew I had to work hard to earn that spot,” Fears said, admitting he struggled at first with the speed at the next level. “But as fall camp progressed, I got better.”
Arizona opted to go with a tandem approach at right tackle, with Fears and redshirt sophomore Edgar Burrola splitting snaps. The pair each played 37 snaps in the opener at Hawaii, with Burrola getting the start, and Fears was the reserve in the first four games before getting the nod last week against UCLA.
“Before the game we make a decision,” Fears said of who starts. “We come together, our coach (Kyle DeVan), me and Edgar and discuss the game. It’s worked really good for the both of us.”
Behind Fears—and Burrola—Arizona is averaging 255.5 rushing yards per game, tops in the Pac-12. The Wildcats have also allowed just seven sacks in four games.