Arizona quarterback Ortege Jenkins flies over the Washington defensive line for a touchdown in the final moments. The “Leap by the Lake” remains one of the most iconic plays in program history.

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Mention the most iconic plays in Arizona football history, and Ortege Jenkins’ “Leap by the Lake” is sure to be a contender. After all, most Wildcats fans can still recall No. 16 jumping and somersaulting into the end zone to beat Washington during the UA’s historic 1998 season.

Over 23 years later, the man who co-quarterbacked the best season in program history returned to Tucson as an honorary captain. Jenkins took part in the coin toss before Friday night’s game against the Huskies at Arizona Stadium. Jenkins is the latest honorary captain for Arizona this season, joining other notable ex-Wildcats such as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and former Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.

The 43-year-old Jenkins joined the Star’s Justin Spears on ESPN Tucson’s “Spears and Ali” earlier this week to discuss returning to Tucson, playing both basketball and football in college and, of course, his famous leap. Here’s what he said:

On coming back to Tucson as an honorary captain: “I’m very excited. They’ve been struggling this year, of course, but it’s always good to show support regardless of good or bad times.”

On how it came together: “I got a call from (UA coordinator of football alumni and high school relations) Brandon Sanders and he said, ‘Hey, look at your calendar. It’d be nice for you to come down here as honorary captain for the Washington week.’ … I jumped on it right away because I wanted to come show support for the program.”

On Sanders’ influence among the alumni: “Brandon’s been a big part of keeping and bringing a lot of the alumni guys back that might have drifted off a little bit. It’s a huge influence and a big reason why I’m tied into the program more now than I’ve been over a last few years.”

On playing for Dick Tomey and Lute Olson at the same time: “Different styles, but two great men, on and off the field and on and off the court. They really taught values about being the right type of teammate, playing the right way, playing together and moreso being a better man off the field and off the court as well, representing the program and the brand at as high a level as you could.”

On how the coaches were different: “Tomey had to deal with 100 kids; ‘Coach O’ might have to deal with 15. Just different styles. Both were players’ coaches. I had more of a closer relationship with Coach Tomey because I was his starting quarterback, (where) I was one of Coach Olson’s backup guards. But never once with Coach Olson did I ever feel that there was less love or less attention to detail than he would give all the players. Coach Olson was more stricter on me; Coach Tomey had more of the tough love, but the gentle love, getting what he wanted to get out of all his players.”

On being part of Arizona’s 1998 season: “That was a very close-knit team. We were running a two-quarterback system with me and Keith Smith … having Trung Canidate and Kelvin Eafon in the backfield, Dennis Northcutt and Jeremy McDaniels as your wide receivers. Then you have Brandon Manumaleuna as your tight end. Then we had a bunch of really tough interior guys. We believed in each other and we fought for each other. You had great guys on defense like Chris McAlister, Marcus Bell, Lance Briggs, Antonio Pierce … Daniel Greer, we fought every day to make each other better. You learn so much in practice with guys giving you great looks. … Of course, you have to credit the coaches who were doing an excellent job of keeping the team focused on one goal, and that was going out to play hard and try to win each week.”

On his “Leap by the Lake”: “We were in the shotgun. I don’t know exactly what the play was, but I know the play had to end in the end zone. We didn’t have any timeouts because there were 8 seconds left or whatever was left on the clock.”

On Arizona’s celebration: “That was probably the best plane ride home ever in the history of my life. And then it continued for a couple days until we had to prep for the next week of work. So many smiles, so many ‘I can’t believe its’ and ‘I cant wait to see SportsCenters.’ And being on campus that week was an amazing experience. I remember walking to a class and I was a little bit late; I tried to sneak in through the top. The teacher stopped me and said, ‘You’re late, Mr. Jenkins, but that was a hell of a play.’”

This article originally ran on tucson.com.

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