The Backstory: Championship teams are built with championship players. Yes, coaches recruit players to a program, set them up for success, and call the plays, but ultimately it's the will and determination of the players that determines how far a team goes.
In 1974, the Arizona State Sun Devils suffered through a frustrating 7-5 season in which they underperformed and underachieved. Coach Frank Kush's squad had so much talent, but the pieces never seemed to click. The Sun Devils lacked the traditional toughness and grittiness that Kush teams were known for.
The following season, everything changed. Rallying behind one of the few standouts from the 1974 squad, the Sun Devils followed Freddie Williams as he grinded out every possible yard. Williams put the team on his back, and carried it to a perfect 12-0 record.
The Player: Freddie Williams (1974-1976)
When it comes to Arizona State running backs, Woody Green set the standard. Green's sensational career puts him atop the Sun Devil record books in just about every major category. But is he the most talented back to ever come through the desert? Freddie Williams might have something to say about that.
Williams had the advantage of playing four seasons as opposed to Green's three, but Green's 27 extra carries during his career helped him make up for the lost time.
Regardless, Williams spent the 1973 season learning from the supremely talented Green. As Green rushed for 1,313 yards, Williams played in mop-up duty and picked up 182 yards on just 31 carries. The next season, Frank Kush turned the keys over to Williams and the speedster took off.
As a sophomore, Williams galloped for 1,299 yards and eight touchdowns en route to an average of 5.2 yards per carry. As the starting fullback, Williams garnered Honorable Mention All-American honors as well as First Team All Western Conference recognition.
Despite Williams' emergence, the Sun Devils limped to a 7-5 record. In the offseason, Williams pledged that he would improve on his incredible performance from the season before.
With his mission in mind, Williams grinded out one of the best rushing seasons in Arizona State history. As a junior, Williams accumulated 1,427 yards including 201 yards on 37 carries in a win over New Mexico State. Williams' nine touchdowns helped the Sun Devils to an undefeated 12-0 record culminating with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Nebraska.
Williams' 1975 season will go down as one of the Sun Devils' best individual years, and unfortunately, it turned out to be his best year as well.
In 1976, Williams saw his playing time cut short and he rushed for just 571 yards. That season, the Sun Devils finished a disappointing 4-7, and would have to rebuild behind a new running back the next season.
Even with a disappointing finish to his career, Williams will go down as one of the most prolific running backs to ever come through Tempe. His 17 career 100-yard games are second most to Green, and his consistent average of four seasons with five plus yards per carry helped the Sun Devil back earn the respect of all of his opponents.
Erik Flowers: In 1999, Erik Flowers earned the right to be called a team captain for coach Bruce Snyder's squad. That season, Flowers backed up his leadership with exceptional play, as he earned First Team All Pac-10 honors as a defensive end.
Greg Clark: A tackling machine at linebacker, Clark was named an Honorable Mention All-American by the Associated Press in 1987 after racking up a team high 141 tackles. Clark also led the Sun Devils with 136 tackles in the previous season when they went to the Rose Bowl.