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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 25 Allan Durden

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Free safety, 1982-85

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Earned multiple first-team All-America honors as a senior, including from Walter Camp, Football News, Newspaper Editors Association and UPI. … Was first-team All-Pac-10 in 1984 and 1985. … Is tied for fifth in school history with 14 career interceptions.

Why he made our list: His father Earnel Durden was a star running back for Oregon State, helping the Beavers to the 1957 Rose Bowl, but Allan Durden picked UA over Oregon State out of high school. He became the first of four standout safeties from San Diego’s Helix High to play for the Wildcats, stretching more than a decade. From Durden to Chuck Cecil to Jeff Hammerschmidt to Brandon Sanders.

But Durden was more than just a trendsetter; he was one of the top defenders of the Larry Smith era. Smith switched Durden from receiver during his freshman season, noting the way the youngster broke on the ball.

Durden intercepted six passes in each of his final two seasons, including one he returned 96 yards for a touchdown in a 1984 game at LSU. He played most of that season with a wrist injury, wearing a cast for the final three games.

One key play of his career came in a 1985 game at California. Durden intercepted a pass at the 6-yard line with about a minute to go to preserve a 23-17 victory.

“I have the option to do what I want on any of the coverages,” he said in a 1985 story. “I freelance on many of the coverages and formations. So in that respect I’m a true free safety. I go where I want to go.”

Life after college: Durden was a 12th-round pick of the Detroit Lions but didn’t make the team and did not play in the NFL after being waived from the San Diego Chargers in 1987 following a knee injury. He assisted at a Tucson high school for awhile, helped his father run a Chevrolet dealership in Hayward, Calif., designed and built motorcycles for Team Alba Racing of Poway, Calif. (according to a 2003 story in the San Diego Union-Tribune) and works at State Farm insurance.

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.

Arizona’s top 50

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

No. 30 — Bobby Wade

No. 29 — T Bell

No. 28 — Joe Salave’a

No. 27 — Eddie Wilson

No. 26 — Chuck Levy

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You can see Durden’s 96-yard interception return for a touchdown, starting at about the 54-second mark of the video below, and he puts a big hit on the quarterback on a play starting around 4:11:

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