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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 34 Chuck Osborne

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at Arizona: Defensive tackle, 1992-95

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Was a first-team All-Pac-10 performer as a senior. … Led UA with 11 sacks in 1994 on a team that featured All-American defensive end Tedy Bruschi. … His 21 career sacks rank 10th in school history.

Why he made our list: Osborne was a powerful force through UA’s prime Desert Swarm seasons, hardly having to take a backseat to any of the other great defensive linemen he played with, including Rob Waldrop, Bruschi and Joe Salave’a, as well as Jim Hoffman, Jimmie Hopkins and Ty Parten.

“He was an unsung hero in that group, but the guys in that group will tell you he was every bit as big a part of that as anybody else,” former UA coach Dick Tomey said after Osborne died in October at age 38. “I just know he was a heck of a player when the Wildcats’ defensive line was a dominant defensive line.”

Osborne, from Canyon Country, Calif., was one of Tomey’s bigger recruiting wins, signing with the Wildcats over down-to-the-wire pressure from USC coach Larry Smith. Osborne made an immediate impact on his new teammates. Heath Bray remembers seeing Osborne bench-pressing more than 500 pounds as an 18-year-old freshman.

“Chuck Osborne is one of the greatest football players to ever step on the field at UA, period,” Bray said. “I will stand by that statement forever. I mean, he was absolutely freakish. He had the most unique combination of size, and quickness of anyone I have ever played with.

“Chuck didn’t get the accolades that Waldrop got, but when they lined up together, they were a very, very similar player.”

Osborne, like Waldrop, wasn’t flamboyant on the field, content to let Bruschi be the beaming face of Desert Swarm.

“As a player, you can’t buy respect; you can’t do anything but earn it,” Bray said. “I tell you what, Chuck Osborne earned respect from every single solitary player he played with. He was that dedicated, that hard-working and just that damn good.”

Life after college: Osborne didn’t have ideal height for the NFL, and he was a seventh-round pick of the St. Louis Rams in 1996. He played in 15 games as a rookie but was released before the start of the next season. He played for Amsterdam in the World League in 1997, finishing second in the league with eight sacks.

That earned him a second shot in the NFL, making the Oakland Raiders roster in 1998 for first-year coach Jon Gruden. Osborne was with Oakland for two season before being traded to Green Bay in August 2000. The Packers released him during the season, and he had a short stay with New England but never played. He appeared in 37 NFL games.

In January 2012, Osborne’s wife, Heather, died unexpectedly at 34 (they did not have children). In October, Osborne was found dead by his roommate in his La Jolla, Calif., home. Cause of death was not publicly released.

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

No. 49 — Hubie Oliver

No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski

No. 47 — Jim Donarski

No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter

No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin

No. 44 — John Fina

No. 43 — Glenn Parker

No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson

No. 41 — Marcus Bell

No. 40 — Fred W. Enke

No. 39 — Ka’Deem Carey

No. 38 — Juron Criner

No. 37 — Dana Wells

No. 36 — Tom Tunnicliffe

No. 35 — Bruce Hill

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