Position, years at Arizona: Running back, 1977-80
Honors, accomplishments at Arizona: Ranks fifth in career rushing yards with 3,096. … Led the Wildcats in rushing in each of the program’s first three seasons in the Pac-10, 1978-80.
Why he made our list: Hubert “Hubie” Oliver was all-state in Ohio but wasn’t highly recruited. The story is that he ended up at Arizona because his high school basketball coach knew somebody in the Arizona football office. Oliver was an instant hit for the Wildcats, setting the school freshman single-game rushing record with 186 yards on 29 carries against UTEP in 1977. That came a week after he gained 141 yards on the ground vs. New Mexico.
Oliver was a short, stocky, never-give-an-inch fullback, pairing in 1978 and 1979 with tailback Larry Heater for a thunder-and-lightning kind of combination. They teamed up to post 181 rushing yards in a 1979 win over Arizona State that gave coach Tony Mason his only winning season in three years at Arizona and propelled the Cats to the Fiesta Bowl vs. the Dan Marino-led Pitt Panthers.
Oliver’s most productive season was 1979, when he had a career-high 196-yard game against Colorado State, reached 1,021 yards for the season and earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors for the second time. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his career and rushed for 19 touchdowns, tied for the 10th most in UA history.
He also caught 44 passes at Arizona, a skill that served him well at the next level, but it is his tenacity, as a runner and blocker, that is most memorable about the player nicknamed “Rockman.” Rockman? As the Philadelphia Inquirer would later write:”Oliver, a 5-10 212-pounder, looks as if he has just been quarried from a marble pit.”
Life after college: Many continued to sell Oliver short, as he was only a 10th-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1981. He ended up starting 10 games as a rookie, rushing 75 times for 329 yards, before sitting out 1982 because of a knee injury. When he returned in 1983, he was a fan favorite.
His blocking style was once described as a “bowling ball gone berserk.” The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote during 1983 preseason camp: “This guy can bury linebackers with the finality of an avalanche in the Alps.”
He led the Eagles in rushing with 434 yards in 1983 and was second in receptions with 49. He was again a starter in 1984, but played in only seven games after that, including one with the Eagles in 1985 before finishing up with Indianapolis and Houston in 1986. He ended with 1,030 NFL rushing yards, with 93 receptions for 602 yards.
In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.
No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley