POST FALLS - Inside Joe Tofflemire's massive body that was feared on the football field was a soft heart.
Tofflemire, who starred at Post Falls High, the University of Arizona and as a Seattle Seahawk, died on Tuesday. He was 46.
"He was always very appreciative of everything he had," said Tofflemire's younger brother Paul, who also played at Arizona. "He never took anything for granted. He'd be in awe of the attention he's getting right now (from reacting to his death).
"I don't think he realized how much he was appreciated and loved. He'd always light up a room."
Tofflemire was found unconscious at his Post Falls area home where he lived with his mother, Anna, in recent years. He later died at Kootenai Medical Center.
Tofflemire died of apparent heart failure, Paul said, adding the death was "quite unexpected."
"Injuries from playing in the NFL caused him to become sedentary, and he could never keep his weight off," Paul said.
"The NFL got the best of him as well as many others. He always wanted to be more active, but it got to be very difficult for him."
Tofflemire wore a size 14 square-toe kicking boot and was given the name "Joe the Toe" by assistant coach Steve Long at Post Falls High due to his kicking ability. The nickname stuck with his college and pro teammates.
"Originally all he wanted to do was kick; he wasn't interested in the physicality of the game," said Nick Menegas, Tofflemire's head coach at PFHS. "But he grew into a man, and this man became a giant of a football player. I was just blessed to be his coach. The guy was a flat-out legend.
"He was the first one in the weight room and the last one to leave. But more importantly, he had such a tender, caring compassionate personality."
Tofflemire, a 1984 PFHS graduate, was named to the all-state team as a center both his junior and senior years. He was also named Idaho's Offensive Lineman of the Year his senior season.
Tofflemire's teammates included Rollin Putzier, who played at the University of Oregon, for Pittsburgh and San Francisco in the NFL and three seasons in the World League of American Football. Tofflemire and Putzier were inducted to the inaugural Post Falls High School Hall of Fame.
"Here he had played for the Seahawks and was in the University of Arizona's Ring of Honor, but he still got really excited about our hall of fame," said Craig Christensen, PFHS athletic director.
Tofflemire competed in track at PFHS and finished second in the shot put his senior year at the state meet. He set the school records in both the shot put and discus.
At the University of Arizona, Tofflemire started all four years at center. He was named to the All Pac-10 Team three years and was on the All-American team his junior and senior years.
Tofflemire was the 44th player chosen in the 1989 NFL draft, going in the second round to the Seattle Seahawks. He played for seven years before retiring in 1995. He played in 33 games for the Seahawks and started in all 16 in 1992.
"He overcame numerous injuries to play at a level that most of us only dream of," Menegas said. "He's definitely one of the greatest players I've coached."
Paul said Joe was his role model while growing up.
"I've never seen a better lineman come through the University of Arizona, and I follow the Arizona Wildcats closely," Paul said. "One time we were able to start against Washington State together, and that was a memorable time for both of us."
In addition to being strong, Tofflemire was fast. PFHS teammate Tim Burnside recalls him being the anchor leg of the short relay team in track.
"He ran a little goofy because he was such a big guy, but his legs were so strong," Burnside said. "If our team was close at the finish, he'd whack (the other runners) because his arms and feet were going everywhere."
Burnside also remembers Tofflemire doing pushups just before the team photo.
"He always wanted to look huge and all pumped up," he said.
Although he took football seriously, Tofflemire always found time to rib his teammates.
"Joe was a hard worker back in the day, but he was also a prankster in the locker room," said Mike Valente, a PFHS teammate of Tofflemire's who cut his hair in recent years. "He'd also drink protein shakes, and we all thought that was crazy."
Acquaintances said Tofflemire never let stardom from the NFL overtake his roots. He paid for trips to Seattle both during and after his playing days with the Seahawks. A few years ago, he moved back to North Idaho to spend time with his mother. He attended some PFHS games.
"He talked a lot about his family, and I also saw a side of him that I didn't know," Valente said. "He liked piano music."
Tofflemire has eight siblings. He also has two sons - Michael, who plays football at Weber State, and 10-year-old Johnny.
A rosary for Tofflemire will be held on Friday at 7 p.m. at Bell Tower Funeral Home, 3398 E. Jenalan Ave., Post Falls. Graveside services will be on Monday at noon at Evergreen Cemetery in Post Falls. A reception will be held on Monday at 2 p.m. at the Post Falls Senior Center, 1215 E. Third Ave.
In an interview with The Press in 2006 when the Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl, Tofflemire said he was in a lot of pain from his football injuries. But he said he wasn't bitter and had no regrets because he fulfilled a childhood dream. He said family was his focus and his ties with the Seahawks were lessening.
"Post Falls, I've discovered, has always been home ... ," he said at the time. "Maybe I should appreciate the things that I have more, regardless of what football did to my health."
Joe Tofflemire profile
• Post Falls High - 1984 graduate; all-state center as a junior and senior; Idaho's Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior; kicked a 44-yard field goal in a playoff game against Bishop Kelly (a high school state record at the time); second in state in the shot put as a senior
• University of Arizona -four-year starting center from 1985 to 1988; named to the All Pac-10 Team three years; All-American as a junior and senior; Morris Trophy recipient as a senior for league's most outstanding offensive lineman; named to the Wildcat Stadium Ring of Honor in 1997; named one of the top 100 athletes to attend the university in 2000
• Seattle Seahawks - 44th player chosen in 1989 NFL draft (second round); started in 16 games in 1992; played in 33 games; retired in 1995