On the Centennial football video board Sept. 24, Zach Hoffpauir was as vibrant as ever, cutting back across the field, smiling and dancing with friends.
Nearly 100 family, friends and former teammates gathered at the 31-yard-line during halftime of the Coyotes' game with Hamilton. They were there to take part in the retirement of Hoffpauir's jersey, celebrate the spark he brought to their lives and share how much they missed him.
Hoffpauir starred for Centennial's football and baseball teams from 2009 through his graduation in 2012, earning a scholarship and playing both sports at Stanford. He died in May 2020 at age 26.
"Zach, we all miss you. And I'll see you very soon " said Centennial coach Richard Taylor near the conclusion of a two-minute highlight video and interview that played during the ceremony.
Hoffpauir's No. 31 is the second jersey retired in the history of Centennial football. It joins George Cortez's No. 45. Cortez was a Phoenix Police Officer killed in the line of duty in 2007.
"Tonight, we ensure that Zach’s legacy will forever have a place at Centennial High School," read the post-video script prepared by Centennial P.E. teacher and longtime volleyball coach Cari Bauer.
"Along with his parents Doug and Shannon, sister Hillary, other family members, and former teammates and coaches, we retire the #31 jersey. Zach may be gone but his smile, energy, talent, dance moves, and legacy will forever live on. Zach…your legacy will forever live on…Your name is alive and forever lifted high."
Bauer put together the ceremony along with Centennial athletic secretary Renee Woolery and athletic director Adam Larsen.
This was a night Zach's parents, family and sister could be at Centennial. And fans were there to take in what Hoffpauir meant to the school.
"We wanted to do it last year but because of COVID, we couldn't have fans and it needed to be done right," Bauer said in an interview with Sports360AZ. "I'll be honest, this was easy because of the impact he had."
Months before his death, Hoffpauir began a new job, as an assistant coach for safeties at the University of Northrn Colorado. The Bears honored Hoffpauir by naming his parents honorary captains for their Sept. 25 game with NAU.
While his time in Greeley was short, he never lost his ability to make a connection - a reason why nearly 10 years after his graduation, Zach Hoffpauir remains so connected to his high school.
"Zach was all-state in football and baseball but he was much more than just an athlete. He was a friend, he had a great sense of humor and was kind to everybody. When he walked into a room, that room lit up. There was excitement," Taylor said in the video.
Taylor talked to the 2021 Coyotes in the locker room at halftime, but caught the end of the retirment ceremony coming back onto the field.
He was surprised to see such a large crowd there to honor Hoffpauir. Then again, he wasn't.
"I think that's a tribute to him, and his kindness and caring for others. I couldn't believe it when we walked out there. It looked like the whole place was full. That was very special and it was right, because he was a special person," Taylor said.
#WestValleyPreps Forgive the quality of the iPhone video of a video presentation. But listen to the words of this tribute to Zach Hoffpauir, a star athlete who was so much more than an athlete, and made an impact on @CeHSAZ far beyond the football field and diamond pic.twitter.com/LK3LXAf2nn— Richard Smith (@RsmithYWV) September 25, 2021