The Backstory: At this point in our "Summer of Legends" series, the team at House of Sparky hopes that our readers have come to understand the deep tradition that exists at Arizona State.
Through the series, we've had the privilege of writing about Sun Devil stars from Al Harris to Pat Tillman to Freddie Williams. We have so many more legends to cover, but it's important that we continue to dig deep and scale the foundations of the program.
That's why we're excited about today's legend: Clay Freney. Freney represents a different era of football (We won't pretend to know a whole lot about the game in the 1960s), but it's an era built on values that still hold true today. Play with character, honor, and passion, and above all, play the "Sun Devil Way."
The Player: Clay Freney (1959-1961)
The game of football has changed drastically over the last 60 years, and some positions have undergone complete makeovers. While tight ends have seen their roles transformed the most, fullbacks aren't far behind.
Once considered primary ball carriers, fullbacks have been forced into niche roles as extra blockers in short yardage situations. Outstanding fullbacks have practically gone by the wayside, but they haven't been ditched from the history books.
In 1960, Arizona State coach Frank Kush was fortunate to have one of the best fullbacks in program history on his roster. A gritty and rugged athlete, Clay Freney was the prototypical fullback of his era.
Freney came to Tempe as Frank Kush established himself as one of the best coaches in college football, and Freney's trademark toughness made him an integral part of Kush's gameplans.
In his second season, Freney became a regular starter at fullback and paved the way for running back Nolan Jones. Freney helped the Sun Devils to a 7-3 record, and earned First Team All Western Conference honors for his work.
The following year, Freney managed the same impressive results. That season, Freney duplicated his honors as an All Western Conference player and Nolan Jones rushed for seven touchdowns for the third straight season. Though the Sun Devils didn't improve upon their 7-3 record, they stayed consistent and set the foundation for years of success to follow.
Who Wears It Now?
R.J. Robinson: Though it would take a miracle for Robinson to surpass Freney as the most successful 35 at Arizona State, the Sacramento, California native deserves some love for his role on the team.
Like a fullback, Robinson is an unsung hero as he puts in countless hours as a scout team running back. Robinson does the dirty work and prepares the Sun Devil defense for their next opponent, and he's earned time on special teams because of his work ethic.