When Colorado pulled off the Miracle at Michigan in 1994, it was the third game of the season in which Rashaan Salaam went on to win the Heisman Trophy. Salaam, who was found dead Monday in Boulder, ran for 141 yards in 22 carries against the Wolverines, one of 10 times he broke the 100-yard mark that year.
But on Kordell Stewart's 64-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook that gave Colorado a 27-26 win as time expired, Salaam's assignment was pass protection.
In 2014, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of this iconic play, ESPN.com produced a detailed oral history, and Salaam's blocking was cited:
Salaam: My thing was to give Kordell enough time. There was a three-man rush, and I was told to block. I went to the left, and I stepped up and made the block. Everybody was on the same page. Kordell stepped up.
Colorado assistant coach Rick Neuheisel: The unsung hero was Rashaan Salaam. He does an amazing job of picking off a guy and giving Kordell absolute free access to throw that ball.
That guy was Trevor Pryce, who became a four-time All-Pro defensive end and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Broncos. He had slipped past the block of Buffs lineman Tony Berti, but Salaam kept Pryce from getting to Stewart.
"I was fortunate enough to be in the right position to help hold him off," Salaam told CUBuffs.com in 2004, "and then Tony came back and just pancaked him."
A passerby discovered Salaam's body at a park Monday night and called police, who pronounced him dead at the scene. Salaam was 42. The Boulder Daily Camera reported that authorities suspect a suicide.
Salaam is the only Colorado player to have won a Heisman. He was the Bears' first-round pick in 1995 and rushed for a career-high 1,074 yards as a rookie.
"Rashaan Salaam wins the Heisman Trophy and the next week goes to Texas and has 300 yards and has the 2,000-yard season," Neuheisel told Mile High Sports Magazine. "There are a lot of plays about Rashaan Salaam I remember that exemplified his great season. But the most valuable play he made in that entire year was on that Hail Mary."