The Backstory: Of the 12 players that have donned the No. 96 for Arizona State throughout the years, only two have logged four or more years on the university's football roster: Taleni Wright and Toa Tuitea.
Ironically, both of these gentlemen played defensive end and both were physical freaks of nature. In 2010 as a redshirt sophomore, Tuitea was the Hard Hat Award champion for his gritty persistence in the weight room. As for Wright, the 6'3, 250-pound Samoan stopper was the three-time MVP of his high school volleyball team due to his incredible leaping ability (a certain leaping ability that allowed him to dunk the football over the crossbar on the reg, according to Sports Illustrated).
While their career arcs might have been surprisingly similar, we can only pick one former 96 as the greatest of all time. It might be a bit of a stretch to call him a legend but...
The Legend: No. 98 DE Taleni Wright (1982-1986)
Sure, he certainly wasn't the best defensive lineman on ASU's roster during any of his seasons. Hell, he wasn't even the best Samoan defensive lineman at any point during his time (that recognition goes to two-time honorable mention All-American Dan Saleaumua). But Wright was scrappy and made the most of his time at Arizona State as an integral piece on some underrated yet flawed defensive units.
The four-time letterman was a rotational lineman on the 1983 squad that led the Pac-10 in fewest yards per game at 294.5. Wright was a solid contributor in the seasons that followed but his proudest year might have 1986, when he quietly carried his weight on the 10-1-1 team that won Arizona State its first Rose Bowl.
Sadly, we don't have Wright's sack numbers readily available. Still, one has to imagine that Wright wouldn't have had a hard time beating Tuitea's career total of one QB takedown.
Unfortunately for Wright, he was undoubteldy overshadowed by Frank Rudolph, Jim Reynosa and Saleaumua during his tenure at ASU which led him to go undrafted. But we're here today to give the man some much-deserved love.
DE Toa Tuitea: The talent always seemed to be there for the four-year letterman yet it never translated to the field. To his credit, he did play in all 26 games in his final two seasons as a Devil.
DE/DT Mark Duckens: Duckens only logged one season with the Devils, spending most his career at Wichita State. But for that one season in 1987, he helped lead the Devils to a Freedom Bowl victory as the starting nose guard. He might have been the only No. 96 to play in the pros too, spending time on the Giants, Lions, Buccaneers and Colts from 1989-1995.
Other Famous 96s
Seattle Seahawks DT Cortez Kennedy: The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year made eight Pro Bowls in his 11-year career and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012 after haunting quarterbacks' nightmares throughout the 1990s.
Red Wings LW Tomas Holmstrom: Holmstrom won Olympic championships, Swedish league championships and four Stanley Cups. Basically, he's a god in Detroit.
Canucks/Panthers RW Pavel Bure: The Russian Rocket was the NHL's rookie of the year in 1992 and a two time Rocket Richard trophy recipient during his Hall of Fame career.