Hamilton football star Terrell Suggs stayed home; it led to ASU Hall of Fame

(Video by Adam Schwager/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – College football’s sack king stepped onto the Arizona State campus 23 years ago as a 17-year-old from Chandler’s Hamilton High School, unaware of the impact he would have on the Sun Devils program or that he would one day be counted among the school’s greatest athletes.

Terrell Suggs, who was better known for his exploits as an overpowering running back at Hamilton, swept every major collegiate defensive award as a junior at ASU in 2002, recording 24 sacks, an NCAA Division I record that still stands.

He went on to become one of the most feared pass rushers in NFL history, and recently was among nine former Sun Devils inducted into the ASU Athletics Hall of Fame and Distinction.

“Never could have imagined it,” Suggs said. “When I got the call that, ‘You are inducted into the Hall of Fame,’ I was like, ‘What?’

“You’re shocked, and I’m still taking it all in.”

Suggs, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens who became affectionately known as “T-Sizzle,” was inducted during halftime of ASU’s Oct. 8 upset victory over the Washington Huskies, joining former NCAA wrestling champion Anthony Robles, former women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne and player Briann January and five others in the 2022 class.

Suggs was a homegrown star, the first local high school player to go into ASU’s Athletics Hall of Fame since Levi Jones of Santa Cruz High in Eloy and Desert Vista’s Zach Miller were inducted in 2016. And Suggs believes that Arizona State’s football program can emerge again as a Pac-12 Conference contender by keeping the state’s best high school players at home in the future.

Interim coach Shaun Aguano invited more than 50 of the state’s best high school prospects in the next three graduating classes to the Washington game, underscoring his commitment to pursuing local talent.

“It all starts with an Arizona recruit,” Suggs said. “(If) you want to build a program, you have to win the home base. The hometown kids have to stay home and commit to making the program better. That’s definitely where it starts.

“Coach (Aguano) has definitely started to put them in the right direction.”

Suggs dominated high school football in the state at Hamilton, then chose to stay home and play in nearby Tempe. He said the pride and support he received from the community that watched him blossom into a star made that decision special.

Terrell Suggs, who transferred to Hamilton from Chandler High, left his mark on the Arizona State football program during three seasons. In his final year, Suggs set the single-season sacks record (24). (Jeff Gross /Getty Images)

“I just love the commitment and the loyalty that everyone still has,” he said. “Through highs and lows, they’re still going to support the team. And that’s what we need. That’s how you get back to those glory days – the loyal support of the fans.”

Those glory days are what the Arizona State community is seeking now more than ever.

Other Hall of Fame inductees also credited the support they received during their time at ASU, which led to success beyond the Tempe campus.

“It laid the foundation. I was surrounded by great people and strong leaders who showed me how to be successful and what it took,” said January, a two-time Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year who went on to a 14-year career in the WNBA. “I kind of soaked all of that up and, in every step of my career, used that foundation that I built here at ASU.”

ASU’s wrestling mats gave Robles, a former Mesa High School star born with only one leg, a platform to inspire others inside and outside of sports.

“It’s just a great honor,” said Robles, who won the Pac-10 Championship three times. “To see the athletic greats that came before me that are in the Hall of Fame and to be inducted with this amazing class, I’m just truly blessed. It’s a dream come true, and it shows hard work pays off.”

Suggs, who is expected to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he is eligible in 2025, spent three seasons in Tempe before entering the 2002 NFL Draft. The Baltimore Ravens selected him with the 10th overall pick, making him just the sixth Sun Devil since 1970 to be drafted in the top 10.

After transferring to Hamilton from Chandler High, Suggs was named Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, then found immediate success at the next level.

He totaled 163 tackles and an ASU-record 65.5 tackles for loss along with 44 career sacks, 14 forced fumbles and nine pass deflections. His 2002 season included the national sack record and a school single-season record for tackles for a loss (31.5).

And of course nobody can forget his performance in the 2002 “Duel in the Desert” when for 60 minutes Suggs tortured the Arizona offensive line en route to two sacks, eight tackles and an ASU victory over the Wildcats.

“It was a really good year,” Suggs said. “(Receiver) Shaun McDonald and (quarterback) Andrew Walter had a coming out party and lit some things up. A highlight for us was when we went up to Eugene and beat No. 6 Oregon, after falling behind and coming back with a fourth-quarter comeback. We really felt we had a shot at the Rose Bowl.”

Egan Adler EE-gen AD-ler (he/him/his)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Egan Adler expects to graduate in May 2023 with bachelor’s degrees in sports journalism and history. Adler, who is with Cronkite Sports for the second time, has previously interned as a reporter at The Jersey Journal.

Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix