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ASU Football: 'Summer of Legends' No. 29 Nathan LaDuke

Crossing the middle against LaDuke was a receiver's nightmare, but throwing across the middle was even worse for opposing quarterbacks.

Nathan LaDuke led Arizona State in tackles with 122 in 1990.
Nathan LaDuke led Arizona State in tackles with 122 in 1990.
ASU Athletics

The Backstory: A number of the defensive legends we've honored so far anchored their teams by racking up large tackling totals. Linebackers like Brett Wallerstedt and Mark Tingstad led their teams in tackles in multiple seasons, which cemented their spots in our series.

Tackling stats help us decipher the great players from the front seven, but it's a little more difficult to pick out legends from the secondary. Often, interceptions and pass breakups are a result of being thrown at as opposed to shutting down your opponent completely.

However, the greatest players make a difference no matter what, and that's exactly what Nathan LaDuke did at safety. LaDuke was a prototypical ball hawk, and three seasons in the Sun Devil secondary were plenty to distinguish him as one of Arizona State's best safeties.

The Legend: Nathan LaDuke (1987-1990)

When Nathan LaDuke enrolled at Arizona State, he knew all about the expectations that came with playing on a Sun Devil defense. LaDuke is a local product and attended Alhambra High School in Phoenix, so he had a front row seat for Arizona State's stellar 1986 defense.

It took LaDuke a year to adjust to the college game before he saw extended playing time. But once LaDuke took the field, he made production a habit.

In 1988, LaDuke started at free safety and intercepted three passes while moonlighting as the starting punt returner. That season, LaDuke made his first of three appearances on the All Pac-10 lists as he was named an Honorable Mention.

The following season, LaDuke doubled his interception total and finished with six picks including a few critical red zone interceptions. LaDuke earned a reputation as a momentum changer, and he was named a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.

As a senior, LaDuke snagged four interceptions and led the Sun Devils in that category for a third consecutive season. Though the team finished just 4-7, LaDuke brought in some postseason recognition as he was named a First Team All Pac-10 safety for the second consecutive season.

LaDuke also earned Second Team All-American honors from the Associated Press in 1990, which was an improvement from his Honorable Mention status the previous season.

While the teams LaDuke played on did not match the excellence of the 1986 defense LaDuke watched in high school, he was able to capture some of the magic on his own and bring life to the defenses he led.

Honorable Mentions

Jerone Davison: After LaDuke graduated, he left No. 29 in good hands as Jerone Davison took over and was named an Honorable Mention All Pac-10 tailback.

Michael Martin: Martin may one-up Davison because in addition to being an Honorable Mention Pac-10 halfback in 1997, he also won the Gene Autry Courage Award that season.