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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 30 Bobby Wade

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at Arizona: Receiver, 1999-2002

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Is the Wildcats’ career leader with 3,351 receiving yards, and he ranks second in receptions with 230. … Was a Sporting News second-team All-American as a senior. … Twice earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors — as a return specialist in 2000 and a receiver in 2002. … Was also second-team all-conference as a returner in 2002.

Why he made our list: Bobby Wade, from Phoenix Desert Vista High (where he was The Arizona Republic’s Big Schools Player of the Year in 1998), stepped into the starting lineup as a true freshman, joining star receiver Dennis Northcutt.

“Bobby had an infectious personality — that infectious smile and a way about him in terms of relating to people,” former UA coach Dick Tomey told TucsonCitizen.com. “Besides that, he was a tremendous player in high school. It was not difficult to tell why he would be a really good player.”

Wade made 30 receptions as a freshman, none more memorable than the 45-yard catch (non-catch?) on a 45-yard Hail Mary from Keith Smith on the last play of the game at Washington State. Wade, falling down in the end zone as five players went for the ball, grabbed the ball, although it did appear to briefly hit the turf (see the video below). The use of instant replay to help officials was not in use yet in college football. UA won 30-24.

“I caught the ball,” Wade insisted after the game. “I showed the ball (to officials) right away, so I was sure they were going to give it to me.”

Wade ended up playing through some tough years for UA football, including the transition to coach John Mackovic after the 2000 season, but he was a constant force as a 5-foot-10 wideout and returner.

He had more than 100 yards receiving in 10 of his final 15 games as a Wildcat, and his 93 receptions as a senior is a school season record. He caught 23 career touchdown passes, tied for the fourth-most in school history.

Wade led the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards in 2002, with 162.4 per game.

Life after college: Wade, a fifth-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 2003, ended up playing in seven seasons in the NFL with four teams.

He spent most of his first three seasons with the Bears, catching 64 passes and serving as the team’s primary punt returner in 2005. But fumbling issues that season — he had 10 — led to his release late in the season. The Titans claimed Wade, who finished up the season with Tennessee and spent 2006 as the team’s main kick returner, also catching 33 passes.

From there, it was on to Minnesota, where he had his two most productive seasons at receiver. With almost identical stats each year, Wade caught a combined 107 passes for 1,292 yards as the team’s top wideout.

The Vikings, though, released Wade just before the start of the 2009 season. He hooked on with Kansas City that season, and tried to make the Washington Redskins in 2010 before being among the final cuts.

His final NFL numbers: 102 games, 50 starts; 244 receptions for 2,858 yards and nine touchdowns.

Wade, who lives in Phoenix, was one of many ex-Wildcats who worked Lance Briggs’ youth camp in Tucson this spring.

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

No. 34 — Chuck Osborne

No. 33 — Brandon Sanders

No. 32 — Sean Harris

No. 31 — Mike Thomas

Here is the ending of the Arizona-Washington State game from 1999. The Hail Mary pass starts at the 5-minute mark:

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