ASU Football: "12 Plays of Christmas" No. 4 - The Captain's Comeback

(Photo: ASU)

In the season opener against Northern Arizona, Brandon Magee announces he's ready for his senior season after he returns a Lumberjack pass 45 yards for a touchdown.

Play No. 4: Brandon Magee's 45-yard interception return for a touchdown in the season opener against Northern Arizona.

Points:

2 Points: Momentum changing play

3 Points: Play happened in a Sun Devil victory

6 Points: Play resulted in a defensive touchdown

7 Points: Big Play (30+ yards)

Total: 18 Points

In his daily dealings with the media this year, coach Todd Graham was almost always asked the question, "Who stood out to you today?"

Whether the question came after a key victory, a disappointing loss, or just another routine practice, Graham's responses told Sun Devil fans all they needed to know about Brandon Magee.

Many coaches use media opportunities, especially post practice, to highlight a player from the scout team unit or a special teams warrior, but Graham circled back to the Sun Devil linebacker almost every time.

From day one in Tempe, coach Graham knew that if he wanted to revamp the Arizona State program, he would need Magee to buy in and help the cause. Magee is a media darling, and any hint of skepticism from the linebacker in his infinite number of interviews could have impacted the team morale.

Instead of sitting on the fence, Magee jumped right on board and helped the Sun Devils rally behind their new coach ready to make Arizona State a contender again.

After sitting out the entire 2011 season with an Achilles injury, Brandon Magee was determined to make his impact felt in 2012. Magee worked tirelessly to recover from his injury, and his work ethic and determination have made him a fan favorite since the beginning.

Magee became the vocal leader the Sun Devil defense needed in order to prepare for the 2012 season, and helped spearhead the charge in incorporating Graham's complex schemes.

The Sun Devils spent the offseason prepping for a new era of football in Tempe, and the late August showdown against the neighbors from the north would provide the first measuring stick of things to come.

While many fans were curious as to how the Sun Devils had taken to coach Graham's system, plenty were just as eager to see their favorite player roam the field again.

When the Sun Devils took the field for the first time in the 2012 campaign, they did not disappoint. Fortunately, neither did Magee.

The nighttime kickoff did not seem to affect the temperature in Tempe as the teams took the field in 100-degree heat. Luckily for the Sun Devils, they used the weather to their advantage and started hot.

Arizona State opened the game on fire as quarterback Taylor Kelly drove the Sun Devils right past the Lumberjacks before Cameron Marshall scored the first touchdown of the season. The Sun Devils took an early 7-0 lead, and showed no signs of slowing down.

After another Marshall touchdown run that helped the Sun Devils increase the lead to 14-0, the senior back fumbled on the next possession and opened the door for Northern Arizona to come storming back.

However, the Sun Devil defense forced a three-and-out and D.J. Foster scored shortly after the second quarter began to give Arizona State a 21-0 lead.

Sun Devil Stadium was abuzz as fans rejoiced in the utter domination ensuing before their eyes. Though Northern Arizona didn't represent the most difficult challenge, the Sun Devils looked like they could have beaten any opponent that night with the way the team stormed up and down the field.

When the Lumberjacks took possession trailing by 21, the Sun Devils needed one more big play to put the nail in the coffin and chalk their season opener up as a victory.

Not surprisingly, Brandon Magee delivered.

After Lumberjack quarterback Cary Grossart found Dezjon Walker for a first down, Northern Arizona held the ball at their own 37-yard line. On the next play, the Sun Devil defense showed its propensity for big plays when Chris Young drove Zach Bauman back for a five-yard loss.

Facing a second and 15 situation, the Lumberjacks lined up out of the shotgun with two receivers and a tight end on the left, another spread right, and a running back standing next to Grossart.

The Lumberjacks needed to gain yards in hopes of salvaging a game in which they were running out of hope, and they attempted a pass to pick up a first down.

When Grossart dropped back to pass, he locked in on his tight end streaking down the middle of the field. As he threw, Grossart didn't see Brandon Magee dropping underneath the route and readying himself to snatch the football out of the air.

Magee leaped up and intercepted the football, and his 2012 highlight reel began to roll.

The senior gathered himself at the 45-yard line and planted his feet toward the Sun Devil end zone. Magee had open space in front of him, and used a wall of blockers to shield him from would-be tacklers.

With the help of a teammate, Magee shed a tackle at the 15-yard line, but still had three or four more Lumberjacks to beat if he wanted to reach the end zone. The linebacker used a brilliant stiff arm to break through another tackle, and shielded himself from all other pursuers with the aid of a defensive unit that looked more like a kick return team.

When Magee crossed the goal line, the crowd in Sun Devil Stadium roared in approval at the assertive announcement the team captain had just made.

Not only was Magee back, but so were the Sun Devils.

Magee's touchdown was the icing on the cake and took any last thoughts of an upset away from the visiting Lumberjacks.

After working hard to return to top form, the senior delighted an Arizona State crowd who has grown to love and cherish the linebacker over a fantastic career in Tempe.

While Will Sutton garnered the All-America honors as the face of the defense, Magee put together a 104 tackle and 6.5-sack season as the unit's heart and soul.

When thinking about the ideal qualities of a Sun Devil athlete, there are no concrete set of traits and characteristics that a player must exemplify. In the future, all a Sun Devil needs to do is model his or herself after the dedicated, determined, and diligent Brandon Magee.

For a complete breakdown of our "12 Plays of Christmas" countdown, click here

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