The Backstory: As our "Summer of Legends" series continues, we encounter No. 61, which has been worn by more than 25 different Arizona State linemen. While No. 61 is certainly a popular selection, it has been worn by players on both sides of the football.
Because as many offensive guards wore No. 61 as defensive tackles, we could have potentially run into some difficulties in determining how to weight offensive achievements against defensive statistics.
Fortunately, one "Sun Devil Legend" separated himself from the pack. When it comes to No. 61, Gary Venturo is the clear-cut legend. The Sun Devil guard played on one of the greatest offensive lines in school history, and his career highlights stand out from the pack.
The Player: Gary Venturo (1968-1970)
On Monday, we honored Sun Devil star Mike Tomco who played from 1969-1971. Today, we turn our attention to Tomco's teammate on the offensive line, Gary Venturo.
Venturo took over at right guard in 1968 as Frank Kush was building a juggernaut. The Sun Devils prided themselves on having strong offensive line play and Venturo helped build that reputation.
In his first season as a starter, Venturo and the Sun Devils started 3-2, but ended the season on a five game winning streak that included a 30-7 shellacking of the Arizona Wildcats.
Fortunately for Venturo, his skillset evolved and he took his game to the next level in 1969. That season, Venturo was named a First Team All Western Athletic Conference performer as the Sun Devils' starting right guard.
In 1970, Venturo's success continued as he switched back to left guard. Venturo was back in his comfort zone and it showed. The Sun Devils' powerhouse offensive line helped guide the team to an 11-0 record and Venturo was named a 1st Team All WAC player as well as a Second Team All-American.
But what do we see as the greatest accomplishment of Venturo's career? He never lost against Arizona.
Sal Olivo: As a middle guard, Olivo earned Honorable Mention All WAC honors in 1973 as the Sun Devils completed their third consecutive season with double-digit victories.
Rocky Mataali: After Olivo surrendered No. 61, Mataali took it over and picked up right where he left off. Mataali was named an Honorable Mention All WAC middle guard in 1974.