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ASU Football: 'Summer of Legends' No. 32 Ben Malone

Another Kush era running back assumes a spot in our "Summer of Legends" series.

Ben Malone is among the most underrated Sun Devils.
Ben Malone is among the most underrated Sun Devils.

The Backstory: In 1971, the Arizona State Sun Devils achieved one of the greatest seasons in program history. With quarterback Danny White spinning spirals and running back Woody Green rumbling through opponents, the Sun Devil backfield helped the team finish at No. 8 in the final national poll.

The 1971 backfield was one of the most successful in school history, and White and Green received plenty of accolades for their triumphs. But even with the two superstars, one unsung hero beginning his journey at Arizona State helped make that backfield special.

As a critical blocker and an oft-used ball carrier, fullback Ben Malone developed into an invaluable playmaker. That season, Malone offered just a glimpse of his talent as he would become one of the Sun Devils' most talented running backs to ever come through the program.

The Player: Ben Malone (1971-1973)

Woody Green's fantastic 1971 season put the Western Athletic Conference on notice. As the Sun Devils' primary ball carrier, Green burst onto the scene with a combination of size and speed the Tempe fans hadn't seen since the days of Wilford White.

As Green rushed for 1,310 yards and 12 touchdowns, opposing defenses were forced to gameplan around the Sun Devils emerging talent. With the newfound attention focused on Green, coach Frank Kush began exploring options to spice up his offense.

Kush did not have to look very far as Green's backfield mate Ben Malone proved to be quite the athlete himself. As a blocker, Malone paved the way for Green on power and lead plays. As a ball carrier, Malone seized his opportunities and scampered for 917 yards. Malone's 7.6 yards per carry would help take the Sun Devil offense to new heights, and the team ended up winning the Fiesta Bowl.

The following season, Malone carried just 73 times, a significant decline from his 121 rushes the previous year, but he maintained his effectiveness. Malone averaged 5.1 yards per carry, but became a goal line presence and punched in six rushing touchdowns.

Malone always played second fiddle to Green, but in his senior season, the tough-as-nails fullback decided that he wanted to share in the limelight. As Green rushed for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns, Malone aided in making the 1973 backfield the most productive in Arizona State history.

As a senior, Malone fought his way for 1,186 yards and 15 touchdowns. Malone's greatest performance of the season still holds as the greatest performance ever for a Sun Devil running back. Against Oregon State, Malone rushed 24 times and picked up a staggering 250 yards and six touchdowns.

Malone and Green became a devastating duo for opposing defenses, and their stats remain the stuff of legend. While he only rushed 385 times in his career, Malone's 2,474 yards are the 11th most of all-time for an Arizona State running back. Furthermore, his 25 career rushing touchdowns are the sixth most in Sun Devil history.

Though Malone never made an All-American or even an All-Conference list, he's always been an "All-Sun Devil." In 1983, Malone was inducted into the Arizona State Sports Hall of Fame.

Honorable Mention

Seth Miller: Miller enjoyed one of the greatest seasons ever for a Sun Devil defensive back. In 1969, the team captain and All-WAC selection intercepted a grand total of 11 passes.