Chuck Cecil, University of Arizona Football Great, Enters College Hall of Fame

We remember The Play like it was yesterday, to steal a clich'e, though it was almost a quarter-century ago, November 1986.



It was a bright, sunny afternoon in Tucson, and we were right down on the field, parallel to the action inside Arizona's 10-yard-line on the south side of the gridiron.

"We" included our former colleague, Dave Walker, who was writing a cool little story about the Arizona State University band. 

Walker now is the TV writer at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and is the world's acknowledged expert on all things Treme, the wonderful HBO show which takes place, of course, in the Crescent City.

ASU that year was undefeated and headed for the Rose Bowl (which they would win over the Michigan Wolverines), but the Wildcats surprisingly were up by a score of 24-10 late in the third quarter.

The Devils, however, were driving, and a touchdown would put them right back in the ballgame, with momentum to boot.

Quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst, a really good one who would be MVP of the Rose Bowl, scrambled, saw an open receiver and let the ball fly:

But Chuck Cecil, a 175-pound free safety who later would become known as the hardest (some would add dirtiest) hitter in the National Football League, darted across the lane and intercepted the pass about six yards deep in the end zone.

Cecil didn't take a knee, which would have safvely ended the play and moved the ball out to the 20-yard-line, Instead, he decided to make a run for it.

It was as electric a sports moment as we've ever experienced live.

Check the play out below.


Little number six, the heart and soul of Arizona's team, sprinted past what seemed like the entire ASU team on his way to what officially was a 100-yard interception return (he ran about 115 yards) for a touchdown.

At that point, the game was history, and Cecil's legacy--already cemented by then--instantly moved into the immortal category.

We fondly remember the award-winning column that our late colleague Deborah Laake wrote about The Play, but it predated the archives on this site (New Times has been around quite awhile), so we unfortunately can't link it.

The reason for all of this reminscing is this:

A few days ago, Chuck Cecil was inducted into the national College Football Hall of Fame, an amazing achievement for a relatively little guy who was one small step above a walk-on player as a freshman down in Tucson.

To legions of University of Arizona fans, he (and his Play) remain the best that the football Wildcats have had to offer.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin