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Stadium Stories: Aztecs’ all-time great Tolver dreamed of playing at ‘The Q’

SAN DIEGO – At San Diego State, J.R. Tolver rewrote the Aztecs’ record book.

San Diego State football legend J.R. Tolver, right, stands with FOX 5 Sports Director Troy Hirsch near the site of the former Qualcomm Stadium, currently in the process of being demolished.

Tolver, who graduated from Mira Mesa High School, said some of the best memories of his life took place at the old San Diego Stadium in Mission Valley. He recalls seeing the stadium — currently in the process of being demolished — after moving to the area from Louisiana, and thinking, “I’m going to play in that stadium one day.”

“As a high schooler, it was important to go to ‘The Q’ and play for the championship — never got the opportunity to do that at Mira Mesa High School,” Tolver said. “But it was phenomenal to do that for five years as a San Diego State Aztec.”

Two decades ago, Tolver transitioned from being a high school quarterback to an all-conference receiver, setting SDSU records for receptions and yards in a season and a career.

“But the biggest memory for me was against Arizona State (in 2002),” he said. “I had 12 catches for 296 yards and a touchdown and that was like my real coming out party.”

Tolver went on to play parts of four seasons in the NFL, nearly having a chance to play again in his home stadium while with the Miami Dolphins. And then came another memorable moment.

30 Aug 2001: A close up of J.R. Tolver of the San Diego State Aztecs as he looks on from the sidelines during the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Credit: Tom Hauck /Allsport)

“We were set to play here on Monday Night Football, the return of Junior Seau— and the fires hit,” he said. “So they evacuated the city. We flew into the city, smoke filled the cabin and I think we were in our hotel for three hours and then they said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to be able to play the game, we’re going to move it to Arizona.’ Man, I was fired up. I had my family and big fan club.

“Super excited to come back to play in San Diego as a pro. And unfortunately it never happened.”

Now a father of three and the owner of an insurance business, Tolver said he looks forward to the new Aztecs stadium going up. He will always have the memories from his years in Mission Valley.

“Makes me emotional, to be honest with ya,” Tolver said. “There’s so many great things that happened in that stadium as it pertains to my career. I was inducted into the SDSU Hall of Fame in 2012 on that field.”