Position, years at UA: Defensive tackle, 1994-97
Honors, accomplishments at UA: Earned honorable mention all-conference honors in 1995, a second-team nod in 1996 and a first-team award in 1997. … Led the team in sacks and tackles for a loss in his final two seasons.
Why he made our list: The Samoan-born Joe Salave’a was simply a tough son of a gun, described best by a story from his freshman season.
A dislocated left wrist sent him from Arizona Stadium to the emergency room of University of Medical Center, where he implored the staff to hurry. When X-rays were negative for a break, he was rushed back to the game with his injured wrist, forcing two fourth-quarter fumbles as the Wildcats rallied to beat UCLA 34-24.
“He had a motor and a way of playing,” coach Dick Tomey told TucsonCitizen.com. “The group that he played with, we had a lot of guys like that. He fit right in. He played with tremendous passion.”
Salave’a is ninth in school history with 21 1/2 sacks. He had 29 tackles for a loss in his final two seasons, seemingly always playing through some ailment but refusing to leave the lineup. He was a heart-and-soul defender for UA as much as anybody through the 1990s.
And he did something that almost assuredly will never happen again.