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Like many around the ASU community, I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Sun Devil football coach Bruce Snyder on Monday.

Snyder was the coach when I first started spending Saturday nights at Sun Devil Stadium with my family as a young kid and officially adopted the ASU football team as “my” team.

I still remember the 1996 season like it was yesterday: The Nebraska shutout, Jake Plummer’s hat trick against UCLA, the double overtime win against USC, the stomping of California that clinched the Rose Bowl berth, and being seconds away from winning the national title.

I was 8 years old, and I was hooked.

Despite the frustrations and disappointments that came with the seasons that followed that one magical campaign, Snyder’s squads had a huge impact on my childhood and essentially morphed me into the diehard Devil I’ve been for my entire life.

I had the pleasure of meeting Snyder at the first Pat’s Run in 2005. He was visiting with fans, and I asked him to sign my race number. He got a kick out of that, but happily agreed. We then chatted for a bit, and I thanked him for everything he did for ASU during his tenure and for being a part of such an important event.

I always knew Snyder was one of the “good guys,” but that sealed the deal for me. It took less than 2 minutes of his time to talk to me, but it made my day. “Guess who I just met? Bruce Snyder!” was the first thing I blurted out to my mom when I called her minutes later, and I still have my signed race number.

Thank you, Coach, for recruiting players like Plummer, Pat Tillman, Keith Poole, Derrick Rodgers, J.R. Redmond, Shaun McDonald, Terrell Suggs, Todd Heap and Andrew Walter, who were some of my biggest sports heroes while I was growing up.

Thank you for the most memorable season Sun Devil football fans have seen during my lifetime.

Thank you for providing my family with such a fun way to spend time together and for being behind an activity that quickly developed into one of the biggest bonds I share with both of my parents.

Thank you for helping fuel my passion for ASU football. Because without that, there is no way I would be pursuing a career in sports journalism today.

But thank you most of all for being a class act and for showing me what being a true Sun Devil is all about.

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