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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 7 Joe Tofflemire

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Photo illustration by azcentral sports.

Position, years at UA: Center, 1985-88

Honors, accomplishments at UA: Earned second-team All-America honors from the Football News in 1986 and 1987, and first-team honors from that publication in 1988. … Won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10′s top offensive lineman, as voted by the league’s defensive linemen, as a senior. … Was first-team All-Pac-10 in 1986, 1987 and 1988.

Why he made our list: Joe Tofflemire is the most accomplished offensive linemen in school history, although he was recruited by coach Larry Smith out of Post Falls (Idaho) High School as an outside linebacker. He redshirted the 1984 season as a defender, before being moved to center in the spring of 1985.

He became a four-year starter, giving a glimpse of what was to come when he earned second-team all-conference and Freshman All-America honors in his first year at center.

“He was a giant among players of his generation,” said Dick Tomey, who coached during Tofflemire’s final two seasons at UA.

“With what he gave to his teammates and the coaches in terms of his work ethic and character, the impact he had was enormous.”

Glenn Parker arrived as a junior-college transfer in the spring of 1988, when Tofflemire was already the Big Man on Campus and one of the team captains.

“He had none of that BS of ‘I’m the man around here and you have to learn,’ ” Parker said 2011. “It’s easy for the head honcho to be a jerk, but he smiled and accepted me, and that meant that the rest of the guys did as well. That’s part of being a leader.”

He is the only offensive player in school history to be first-team All-Pac-10 three times. He is one of six offensive linemen in the history of the conference to achieve that feat.

“He was quick with a smile and quick to make you smile,” safety Chuck Cecil said in 2011. “He put in his work, took care of business. He just showed you how to do it. He would be like, ‘Watch me, and you will be successful.’ He was a consummate teammate. That is how I remember Joe.”

Life after college: The Seattle Seahawks selected Tofflemire in the second round, No. 44 overall, in the 1989 NFL draft. Tofflemire’s career was marked with injuries (back, shoulder, knees) that kept him out for the 1991 and 1993 seasons. He saw action for one play in 1994.

Tofflemire played in 33 games for the Seahawks — all of his 16 starts came in 1992 — but was waived in camp in 1995 when he did not accept a pay cut — from $325,000 to $190,000 — for the second consecutive year.

Tofflemire, who would undergo surgery to fuse vertebrae in his back and rebuild his shoulder, faced declining health because of his football injuries, unable to work, unable to easily get around. He died in September 2011 at age 46 because of heart failure after he was found unconscious at his home in Post Falls.

“Heart failure, yes, but in truth, Joe was dealing with a lot of things,” his brother Paul, who followed Joe as UA’s starting center, told the Tacoma News-Tribune in 2011. “In some ways, his whole body was shot.”

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

No. 12 — Antoine Cason

No. 11 — Vance Johnson

No. 10 — Lance Briggs

No. 9 — Byron Evans

No. 8 — Darryll Lewis

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