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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 12 Antoine Cason

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Cornerback, 2004-07

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back, in 2007. … Consensus All-American as a senior. … Second-team All-American by SI.com as a junior. … Two-time first-team All-Pac-10, in 2006 and 2007. …. Was second-team all-conference as a sophomore.

Why he made our list: Antoine Cason was the top player of the Mike Stoops era (2004-2011), a game-changer as a defender and a punt returner.

His big-play highlights in big games include a 39-yard fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown that fueled a 24-20 victory over eighth-ranked California in 2006 and his two-touchdown game vs. No. 2 Oregon in 2007 (video highlights of the game below).

In the latter game, Cason returned an interception 42 yards and a punt 56 yards, both in the second quarter, helping the Wildcats take a 20-point lead. UA went on to post a 34-24 upset Nov. 15, dashing the Ducks’ national-championship hopes. Cason also had seven solo tackles, broke up five passes and caused a fumble that UA recovered at the end of a 40-yard run on a fake punt.

That game, which was played on a Thursday night on ESPN, propelled Cason to the Thorpe Award.

“What a great person, a great leader, great character,” then-defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said at the time. “When the bright lights are on in a big game, he steps up. That is what All-Americans do.”

Cason, who also was an All-American on UA’s 4×100 relay team, is fourth in school history with 15 interceptions and fourth in pass break-ups with 32.

Life after college: Cason was the 27th pick of the first round of the 2008 NFL draft, going to his hometown San Diego Chargers. He mostly played as a backup in his first two seasons but then started nearly every game at cornerback for the Chargers from 2010 to 2012, making a dozen career interceptions.

Cason signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals this off-season. He is competing for a starting spot opposite Patrick Peterson and could figure in the team’s nickel package.

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

No. 25 — Allan Durden

No. 24 — Nick Foles

No. 23 — Tony Bouie

No. 22 — ‘King Kong’ Nolan

No. 21 — Bill Lueck

No. 20 — Walter “Hoss” Nielsen

No. 19 — Trung Canidate

No. 18 — Mark Arneson

No. 17 — Chris Singleton

No. 16 — Mike Dawson

No. 15 — Max Zendejas

No. 14 — Dennis Northcutt

No. 13 — Jackie Wallace

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