Through Aug. 23, the Star will count down the top 10 football players from each major Southern Arizona high school program:
The best: Mike Saffer
Achievements: Several big-time college football programs had their eyes on Saffer, a 6-foot- 6-inch, 295-pound USA Today first-team All-America offensive tackle and two-time Arizona Republic All-State selection who was widely considered the No. 1 offensive lineman in the nation in 1997. According to former Sabino coach Jeff Scurran, Nebraska, the 1995 national champion, had two coaches station themselves in Tucson for a week and try to persuade Saffer to become a Cornhusker. Saffer, who was also a Parade All-American and Reebok preseason All-American as a senior, helped open lanes for running back Nathan Wize, a fellow senior who rushed for a state-record 3,101 yards and 51 touchdowns in 1997 as the Sabercats went 13-0 before losing in the 4A state championship game. Saffer listed UCLA, USC, Washington, Nebraska and Arizona State as his final college choices and he ultimately chose the Bruins. He started 41 games with them and was named All-Pac-10 and a second-team All-American by The Sporting News his senior year in 2002, but was never able to make it on a NFL team.
From the archives: "Mike Saffer has improved on the pancake block, not only leaving the guy on his back, but the imprint of his waffle shoes are found on his chest." - Wize in the Dec. 11, 1997, Arizona Daily Star
The big number: 1. In three years starting at blindside tackle with Sabino, Saffer gave up only one sack.
Coming up: Find out who the 10 best players from Sahuarita are Saturday.