On Thursday, former Arizona State Sun Devil and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Jake Plummer was part of the 42nd class of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. It was yet another feather in the cap of an athlete that has made a huge impact on Arizona Sports. He already is a member of the ASU Hall of Fame.
There have been quite a few athletes that have made their mark here. Charles Barkley, Randy Johnson, Steve Nash, Kevin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner. All of these guys have impressive resumes. However, none has quite made the impact on the whole of Arizona sports that Plummer made.
This is why Jake Plummer should be considered the athlete with the greatest impact in Arizona sports history.
Plummer was a fan favorite both as a Sun Devil and as a member of the Cardinals. While his individual performance was greater at Arizona State, he also made his mark in the NFL.
He started four years as a Sun Devil and held several records that later would be surpassed by the likes of Andrew Walter. But it was the 1996 Rose Bowl season for the Devils that has us remember Plummer in maroon and gold. He was one of the most exciting college players that year. He led the Devils to an undefeated regular season. He was third in the Heisman Trophy voting. His rushing touchdown with 1:40 left in the Rose Bowl could have earned the Devils a national championship, had it not been for Joe Germaine, David Boston and some pass interference penalties.
He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and, in his first drive as a professional quarterback, led the team to a 99-yard touchdown drive. He was believed to be the QB of the future.
In 1998, he led the Cardinals with some magical late-game drives into the playoffs and a victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Before the 2008 season, it was easily the greatest season the Cardinals ever had.
Another underrated impact Plummer had was the result of that playoff run. The 1998 season and Plummer being face of the team ultimately is seen as the reason why the stadium bill was passed that led to the construction of University of Phoenix Stadium.
Plummer overall became a disappointment as a quarterback. He made bad decisions at critical times and tried to do too much. He eventually was let go and went on to find some success with the Denver Broncos. In fact, statistically, Plummer's numbers almost mirror exactly what John Elway had done in the same amount of time.
But as for impact, I will say that no other athlete has done what Jake did.
There are only a handful of transcendent seasons in Arizona sports history. There were the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns, the 1996 Sun Devils, the 1997 and 2011 Arizona Wildcats, the 1998 and 2008 Cardinals, the 2001 and 2007 Diamondbacks and, to a lesser extent, the Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni Suns.
Only Plummer was the main man in two transcendent seasons for two different Arizona teams. The '96 Devils and '98 Cardinals were truly magical. Plummer was the one at the wheel making the magic. He led comebacks, made the plays and led those teams to victory. His play led to a stadium that was a reason why the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl.
Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley had one such season. So did Randy Johnson. Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald in 2008 was a sight to behold. Steve Nash has been part of some great seasons, but I don't quite put those Suns teams on the same level of transcendence as Plummer's teams. But in all the other cases, it was just one such impact season.
Make no mistake, Plummer was not the athlete that these other players were. He was a huge disappointment by the end of his tenure with the Cardinals.
But was there ever another athlete in Arizona to lead two magical seasons with the flair for the dramatic that Plummer did? Plus, he did for two different Arizona teams -- one in college and then as a pro.
Personally, having attended ASU when Plummer was there and having been a Cardinals fan forever, I naturally hold a soft spot in my heart for him as an athlete. He is my favorite athlete ever.
However, despite the bias I might have, you cannot deny the impact he has had in Arizona sports. Jake Plummer was the greatest athlete in terms of impact that Arizona has ever had.
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