Glenn Parker joined the Arizona Wildcats as a junior college transfer offensive lineman in the spring of 1988, when Joe Tofflemire already was a two-time all-conference center.
“He was such a good guy,” Parker said Tuesday, a day after Tofflemire died at the age of 46 in Post Falls, Idaho.
“Meet you, greet you, look you in the eye. He had none of that BS of ‘I’m the man around here and you have to learn.’ … It’s easy for the head honcho to be a jerk, but he smiled and accepted me, and that meant that the rest of the guys did as well. That’s part of being a leader.”
Tofflemire, one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Arizona history, was remembered Tuesday by teammates as a leader, a hard worker and a guy with an infectious smile.
“It’s so sad, because, without being cliche, he was one of the good guys,” said his former Arizona teammate Chuck Cecil. “He was quick with a smile and quick to make you smile.
“He put in his work, took care of business. He just showed you how to do it. He would be like, ‘Watch me and you will be successful.’ He was a consummate teammate. That is how I remember Joe.”
Toffelmire was found unconscious in his home Monday and died in a hospital.
Tofflemire, a center, was a three-time first-team All-Pac-10 player, in 1986, 1987 and 1988, when he also earned All-America honors. He was a second-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 1989 and was with the team through the 1995 training camp.
“He was a special guy,” said former Arizona offensive lineman John Fina, who was a freshman in 1987.
“His leadership and his nature and his ability to inspire by his example was pretty amazing. Every freshman should come in and see a guy like Joe Tofflemire spending all that time in the weight room and on the field doing his footwork drills before and after practice.”
Tofflemire won the 1988 Morris Trophy as the Pac-10′s top offensive lineman, as voted on by the league’s defensive linemen.
He was recruited to Arizona from Post Falls High School by head coach Larry Smith and his staff. Tofflemire began his college career in 1984, redshirting as an outside linebacker before being converted to center in the spring of 1985.
He earned second-team all-conference and Freshman All-America honors that season.
Tofflemire was one of UA’s captains in 1988.
“He was the complete leader,” Fina said.
“He would get up and talk and lead by example. He didn’t tolerate any lackadaisical attitude from himself or from anyone else. He wanted to win football games, and anyone who wasn’t willing to be a part of that wasn’t going to be a friend of his.”
Said Parker: “It wasn’t his nature to scream at people. His nature was to laugh and smile. But when he did tell someone to jump on the bus, it meant something.”
Current Arizona assistant coach Jeff Hammerschmidt was a freshman defensive back in 1987, when injuries forced him into playing five games, starting one, as an option quarterback.
“I was a young kid, so he was a guy I totally looked up to,” Hammerschmidt said.
“I had to play quarterback, and the whole O-line was his deal. If it wasn’t for him, I would have been worse than I was, and I wasn’t really good. Having him there was comforting because he was a heck of a player. Just phenomenal.
“He was always studying. It just meant so much to him. He was such a committed football guy.”
Tofflemire’s brother, Paul, succeeded Joe as Arizona’s center and started for three years, giving the Wildcats seven consecutive years of a Tofflemire at center.
Joe Tofflemire played in 33 games for the Seahawks (starting 16 in 1992), but was often limited by shoulder and back injuries. He was waived in camp in 1995 when he did not accept a pay cut — from $325,000 to $190,000 — for the second consecutive year.
At Arizona, Tofflemire was one of just six players in Pac-10 history to be a three-time first-time offensive lineman. He is a member of UA’s Hall of Fame.
“Just a great Wildcat,” Hammerschmidt said.
Also on TucsonCitizen.com:
Steve Rivera: ‘God must have needed a center’