The Backstory: After two obvious selections at 99 and 98, the House of Sparky staff had our first great debate over No. 97. While logic and numbers might say Shawn Patterson is most deserving, the author of this article believes that Albrey Battle's accomplishments were more impressive.
On the defensive line, Battle did things defensive linemen can only dream of. His career tackles for loss numbers are quite impressive, and he also recorded an interception. Though he was undersized as a defensive tackle, he still produced quality stats. In 1998, he made the transition to defensive end, which demonstrated his willingness to help his team in any way possible.
Though the staff was torn over No. 97, the author has the final say and Albrey Battle is our pick for the greatest Sun Devil to wear the jersey.
The Legend: No. 97 DE/DL Albrey Battle (1994-1998)
Battle was a two-year starter on the defensive line for the Sun Devils in the late 1990s. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native had a knack for wrapping up tackles in the backfield and for that, he was one of the team leaders in negative yardage plays. Thirty percent of his career tackles came behind the line of scrimmage.
Battle was credited with 14 tackles for losses and he was second on the team with two and half sacks during his senior campaign. He also had an interception and a fumble recovery during the 1998 season. Battle finished his collegiate career with 11.5 total sacks and twice, the 6-foot-3, 294-pounder recorded eight total tackles in one game. For comparison, Will Sutton (four times) and Davon Coleman (three times) were the only lineman in 2012 to be involved in eight or more tackles in one game last season.
In 1997, Battle helped the Sun Devils to a Sun Bowl appearance and he was a reserve player when they finished the regular season with a 11-0 record, including a 56-14 walloping against Arizona, before losing to the Ohio State Buckeyes 20-17 in the Rose Bowl. The crafty lineman made a name for himself on the defensive unit a year after the Rose Bowl loss.
Battle was also a team leader and was named a team captain for the 1998 season. That year, he was named an Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 selection as a member of a 5-6 Bruce Snyder squad.
In the Pros: During the 1999 NFL Combine, he did 23 bench press reps at 225 pounds and he was signed as a free agent by the Tennessee Titans but did not make the active roster. He spent the remainder of his football career in the Arena Football League. His uncle Sidney Moncrief was an NBA All-Star with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Honorable Mentions
Shawn Patterson: A versatile lineman, Patterson played four years with the Sun Devils between 1984 and 1987 and he was an All-Pac-10 selection during his senior year. He was drafted in the second round by the Green Bay Packers and played there from 1988 to 1993. He had 11 career NFL sacks.
Based on statistics, Patterson certainly rivals Battle for the best Sun Devil to wear No. 97, but we gave the nod to the team captain on this one.
Fun Fact: Patterson sacked current 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in the 1987 Rose Bowl game.
Brian Montesanto: The four-year letterman was a three-year starter along the defensive line in the early 2000s. Montesanto is one of only a handful of Sun Devils to rock No. 97 for all four seasons in his career.
Who Wears 97 Now?
Kicker Jon Mora currently dons the 97 on his back and its safe to say that he will not pass Battle as the best Sun Devil to wear the jersey. Mora is 5-for-8 kicking field goals from 30 yards out and his longest kick as a Sun Devil was 39 yards.
Other Famous 97s
Jeremy Roenick - 1,216 points, 513 goals and 703 assists through his eighteen-year career. He also became the third American born player in the NHL to score 500 goals.
Cornelius Bennett- Linebacker for the Bills team that lost four straight Super Bowls from 1990-93. Two-time AFC Defensive Player of the Year and five-time Pro Bowl. He had over 1000 tackles and 71.5 sacks during his career.
Simeon Rice- Won a Super Bowl ring in his 12-year playing career and finished with 122 sacks, 25 fumbles. He was also a three-time Pro Bowl selection.