For a three-year stretch, Arizona looked to have one of the most productive linebacker duos in the country in Tony Fields II and Colin Schooler.
The two joined the Wildcats ahead of the 2017 season and found immediate success, both being named to freshmen All-American teams.
Current West Virginia co-defensive coordinator Jahmile Addae was the defensive backs coach at Arizona at the time and said the two were nearly inseparable.
“From what I can remember from the time we had them at Arizona, you couldn’t find one without the other, they were always together,” Addae said. “[They] came in as freshmen and both played well…so you would have thought that those were two guys that would’ve played together forever.”
Fate had other plans, however, as now Fields and Schooler are preparing to face off as opponents. Following the 2019 season, Fields entered his name into the transfer portal, landing at West Virginia. Shortly thereafter, Schooler did the same, ending up at Texas Tech.
With the Mountaineers set to travel to Lubbock later this week to play the Red Raiders on Saturday the duo who racked up so many tackles playing side-by-side will now be looking at one another from opposite sidelines.
“It’s going to be pretty fun,” Fields admitted Tuesday afternoon. “That’s my guy. That was my mike linebacker.”
Fields said he and Schooler are both such intense competitors that they are chomping at the bit to try and best on another.
“He’s circled the day on the calendar because he can’t wait for the day he can beat me, but it’s not going to happen,” Fields joked. “Likewise, I can’t wait until the day I can beat him. We always competed with each other whether it was football games, Madden, anything, so I can’t wait.”
From 2017 through 2019, Fields and Schooler went back and forth on leading the Wildcats in tackles. In three seasons, Fields accrued 287 total tackles with 17 tackles for loss and Schooler had 312 total tackles with 46 for a loss.
Through the early part of the 2020 season, both have been able to carry on their success, even on new teams.
“Colin has been really good,” Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells said. “Coming into training camp late he had a lot to catch up. I think in short order he kind of figured it out on defense. Still probably trying to find the correct and unique home in terms of which linebacker spot, but he’s playing well.”
Schooler has 17 tackles through three games this season. On the opposite side, Fields is leading the Mountaineers with 35 tackles.
“Tony’s meant a great deal to us, he’s played at an elite level,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “It’s not only what he’s meant on the field, but off the field. An older presence, his preparation and energy in practice has been a huge addition to our program.”
“It’s pretty amazing to think you had him and Tony Fields playing right next to each other,” Wells continued. “Tony’s a really, really good player, has had a good start to the season for West Virginia. Two really good players, two really good grad transfers for both our programs.”
While the ex-teammates may be anxious to try and best one another, Fields said the two will not talk much leading up to the game.
“Very minimal communication,” Fields said. “I might call him the day before the game or so just to pump his head up a little bit, but I won’t do too much communicating with him this week.”