We have reached the first football player in our countdown of the 50 greatest professional athletes to come out of Arizona State, and that player is linebacker/defensive end Derrick Rodgers.
After serving in the Air Force, Rodgers was recruited to Tempe by late head coach Bruce Snyder. It didn't take long for the New Orleans product to have an impact, and in 1996 he was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American.
Rodgers was a key member of that Sun Devil team in 1996, with quarterback Jake Plummer even telling the LA Times before the Rose Bowl that the team would "be about 7-4" instead of 11-0 if they didn't have Rodgers. The defensive end was arguably the star of his team's shutout against No. 1 Nebraska earlier in the season, consistently harassing Cornhusker quarterback (and now UCF head coach) Scott Frost.
Rodgers continued to shine after leaving the Valley of the Sun, which earned him a spot on this list. He was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft in 1997 by the Miami Dolphins, where he would spend the first six seasons of his professional career wreaking havoc on opposing backfields. The former maroon and gold standout finished his time with the Dolphins with 245 solo tackles to go along with 140 assisted ones.
After playing in Miami, Rodgers finished his career in his hometown of New Orleans. He played exclusively at linebacker over his two seasons with the Saints, recording an even 100 tackles in just 23 games.
Rodgers was recently featured in an article on the Dolphins team website, which detailed his past military service and friendship with another Arizona State hero - Pat Tillman.