The Backstory: How do fans choose their favorite players? Often times, young fans of a team don't immediately choose the most talented or the most productive players on a team as their favorites. Fans like someone they can relate to, or someone who bucks the trend.
In the mid 1990s, Arizona State fans had no problem choosing their favorite player. That's because Jake "The Snake" Plummer was everything a fan could dream of and more. Plummer had exceptional gifts as an athlete, and he backed those up with dominant on-field performances. Furthermore, Plummer had a flair for the dramatic, and his energy was infectious. Plummer did what many great players are unable to do, and that was ignite a fire within a fan base.
Plummer was the total package, and Arizona State was the ideal fit for him. After four seasons as the starting quarterback, it's no doubt that Plummer left an indelible mark on a program that is forever grateful for his time in Tempe.
The Player: Jake Plummer (1993-1996)
Statistically, Andrew Walter is the best No. 16 to ever play for Arizona State. Walter was an outstanding quarterback during his college career, and he deserves plenty of recognition for his fine efforts. But though Walter may have the better numbers, Plummer has the more impressive resume.
Few Arizona State freshmen have ever had the opportunity to start in their first season, and far fewer played quarterback. In 1993, Jake Plummer forced coach Bruce Snyder's hand. Plummer's all-world athleticism and college readiness allowed Snyder to insert Plummer into the starting lineup, and Plummer did not disappoint.
The Idaho native faced his growing pains, as he threw for just nine touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first campaign. The Sun Devils went 6-5 during Plummer's inaugural season, but anyone watching his team knew that Plummer oozed with potential.
The following season, Plummer's progress didn't exactly give opponents nightmares. Sure, Plummer surpassed 2,000 yards passing, but his 15-9 touchdown to interception ratio was far from outstanding. Without many offensive weapons surrounding him, Plummer's Sun Devils limped to a 3-8 record. Plummer earned Academic All Pac-10 honors, but that paled in comparison to his ultimate goal. He wanted to lead the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl.
In 1995, Plummer began to come on strong. In his third season at the helm, Plummer demonstrated a knack for the big play and bumped his total up to 17 touchdown passes. Plummer made quite the impression on opponents and media members, and was named a First Team All Pac-10 player.
However, Plummer didn't accomplish his main goal, and he set out to go out with a bang during his final season. In 1996, Plummer captained one of the best teams in school history, and his play was a major factor in the team's success. Plummer tossed 24 touchdowns and set a personal best with 2,575 passing yards. He was named First Team All Pac-10, and the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year.
Plummer even finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, and received All-American honors from various outlets. But all of the personal accomplishments paled in comparison to what the Sun Devils did as a team. In 1996, Arizona State went 11-0 during the regular season, and earned an invite to the Rose Bowl to meet the Ohio State Buckeyes.
In Pasadena, Plummer's legend continued to grow. Playing in front of more than 100,000 screaming fans, Plummer and the Sun Devils locked in an intense battle. With under two minutes to play and the Sun Devils trailing 14-10, Plummer drove his team deep into Buckeye territory. Plummer then took matters into his own hands and delivered a sensational 11-yard touchdown run that Arizona State fans will remember for the rest of their lives. "Jake the Snake" did everything he could, but ultimately, the Buckeye offense drove down the field and left the Sun Devils with a 20-17 loss and a locker room full of broken hearts.
If the defense held Ohio State, Plummer might be the most heralded player in Sun Devil history. But regardless, he remains one of the all-time Arizona State greats, and a true fan favorite.
In the Pros: Plummer was drafted in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The local team gave Plummer his first shot, his best seasons came from 2003-2006 with the Denver Broncos. In 2005, Plummer earned the chance to represent the Broncos at the Pro Bowl.
Andrew Walter: It's rare that Arizona State record holders are just Honorable Mentions in our legends series, but Andrew Walter chose to wear a number that already held so much tradition. Walter holds the record for most touchdown passes in a season, as his 30 bombs in 2004 surpassed Mike Pagel's record. While he never earned First Team All Pac-10 honors, his canon was on display on a regular basis.