UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 8
LARAMIE -- During this summer series we are going to countdown the Top 50 football players in Wyoming history, presented by Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Worthy of Wyoming.
The rules are simple: What was the player's impact while in Laramie? That means NFL stats, draft status or any other accolade earned outside of UW is irrelevant when it comes to this list.
This isn't a one-man job. This task called for a panel of experts. Joining me is Robert Gagliardi, Jared Newland, Ryan Thorburn and Kevin McKinney. We all compiled our own list of 50 and let computer averages do the work. Think BCS -- only we hope this catalog is more fair.
Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter page @7220sports.
Quarterback, 2015-17, Firebaugh, California
Here's why: For a brief moment -- very brief -- Josh Allen was in danger of possibly not making this list. Top 10 was certainly out of the question when our panel first met to discuss this little project.
His body of work just wasn't there.
He played in just 27 games, 25 of which came in his final two seasons in Laramie. He tossed 44 touchdown passes and threw for 5,066 yards. That ranks him fifth and eighth in the history books, respectively.
Those numbers are solid, he definitely belongs on the list.
But Top 10?
Here's what really changed our tune. One single word -- impact.
Allen's impact was obvious and immediate on the field. In his first collegiate action against Eastern Michigan in 2015, it became apparent almost immediately that this wasn't just some quarterback. He ran around, bulldozed safeties and zipped the ball through the thin Laramie air. A broken collar bone, because of his style of play, ended his season just as it was getting started.
The following year, there was no doubt who would be under center for Craig Bohl's Cowboys. And once again, we all saw that grit and athleticism on display as he willed his team to a triple-overtime victory over Northern Illinois, diving into the end zone in the early Sunday morning hours.
Allen was a gunslinger. He showed that the following week in Lincoln, Nebraska, when he fired a missile into the corner of the end zone right into the awaiting arms of Tanner Gentry to end the first half. It was jaw-dropping. A quarter later, we saw the guy who was trying to do whatever it took to win. That produced five interceptions.
Still, Wyoming had something special. We knew it. The nation knew it.
Highlight after highlight came across the television screen in living rooms around the country. Allen, who showed he could literally make all the throws, led the Cowboys to an 8-6 record, which included the program's first win over Boise State and its initial berth in the Mountain West Championship game.
Wyoming would go on to play longtime rival BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Allen, again trying to work his magic, threw a late interception to seal a 24-21 Cougar victory.
The big question now became, would he go pro?
After a throw like that? Nope.
Allen returned in 2017 despite the Cowboys losing most of their offensive production with guys like Gentry, Chase Roullier, Brian Hill, Jacob Hollister and Jake Maulhardt. Still, Allen led the team to an 8-5 record and another bowl appearance. This time, Allen threaded in three touchdown passes in a 37-14 rout of Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
After the game, snow falling from the Boise sky, Allen's teammates and the ESPN crew asked him the question we all had on our mind -- what's next?
"I will be declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft," Allen said with a smile.
He was selected No. 7 overall the following spring by the Buffalo Bills. Who can forget the live footage from The Buckhorn as Wyoming fans erupted into a frenzy when his name was called? I don't recall any other draft pick receiving that sort of celebration.
That all brought back some warm and fuzzy feelings, right?
That's why Allen is on this list. He brought the national spotlight to Wyoming for something positive. It was a special time.
Wyoming even decided to commission a study on the economic impact of Allen mania. The conclusion was Allen brought the university nearly $50 million in media exposure.
How's that for impact?
Gagliardi's take: Part of the criteria in selecting the top 50 University of Wyoming football players was impact on the program and school. If that were the only criteria Josh Allen would be No. 1, and No. 2 would be a distance second.
Yeah, there were the 16 victories Allen quarterbacked the Cowboys to as a starter over two years, along with back-to-back bowl appearances in 2017-18, which hadn’t happened since 1987-88.
But over Allen’s final year, UW had an outside firm do an economic impact study on the media exposure the program received and the value of that was $46 million.
How do you like that for impact?
I thought Wyoming had something to work with at quarterback when Allen made his debut in September of 2015 — his first-career start. That lasted only 13 plays, but it resulted in a touchdown, and nearly a second touchdown until Allen decided to take on an Eastern Michigan linebacker in an effort to gain a few more rushing yards (after already gaining 24) and broke his right clavicle in seven places and was lost for the season. Allen’s brief time in that game – and even the play where he got hurt – showed a glimpse of what was to come over the next two seasons.
Allen’s stats with the Cowboys were impressive. He was responsible for 57 touchdowns (44 passing, 12 rushing and one receiving). He threw for over 5,000 yards and had nearly 6,000 yards of total offense. There were some spectacular throws (along with some spectacular catches that made Allen look even better), gutsy runs and a competitive will that was tough to match.
Wyoming took a chance on a tall, skinny kid out of junior college in California and Allen never forgot that. That hit home the most in his last season where he played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl after he missed the last two of games with a shoulder injury. Projected as first-round draft pick, it would have been easy for Allen to call it a college career and get ready to be a pro. Instead, he started that bowl game against Central Michigan and was most outstanding offensive player.
“I owe a lot to (Wyoming head coach Craig) Bohl for extending me the offer to play at the University of Wyoming, and I felt like I owed it to my teammates,” Allen said. “These are my brothers, and missing the last two games killed me.
“Getting back on the field was something I felt I needed to do.”
That’s pretty impactful, too.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (5), Robert Gagliardi (3), Jared Newland (15), Ryan Thorburn (17), Kevin McKinney (10)
Previous selections: No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16, No. 15, No. 14, No. 13, No. 12, No. 11, No. 10, No. 9
Cody Tucker: Brand Manager and creator of 7220sports.com. Tucker has covered the Cowboys since June of 2019, but was a season-ticket holder for nearly three decades. Tucker has also covered Michigan State University Athletics for the Lansing State Journal and Detroit Free Press and the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins during his 10-year journalism career
Robert Gagliardi: Former sports editor and University of Wyoming beat reporter for WyoSports. Gagliardi covered the Cowboys from more than a quarter century. He also covered the team at the Branding Iron, the UW student newspaper. Gagliardi also co-authored the book: The Border War: The Bronze Boot Rivalry Between Colorado State and Wyoming
Jared Newland: Currently the local sales manager for Townsquare Media SE Wyoming, Newland worked with and around Wyoming athletics for 20 years, starting as a student athletic trainer in 1990. Newland has also served in the Sports Information Office, the Cowboy Joe Club, Wyoming Sports Properties and was a UW Athletics Hall of Fame Committee Member from 2002-14.
Ryan Thorburn: Currently covering the Oregon Ducks for The Register-Guard, Thorburn also covered the Cowboys in the early and mid-90's for the Branding Iron and Casper Star Tribune. He has also written four books about Wyoming Athletics: The Border War: The Bronze Boot Rivalry Between Colorado State and Wyoming, Cowboy Up: Kenny Sailors, The Jump Shot and Wyoming’s Championship Basketball History, Lost Cowboys: The Story of Bud Daniel and Wyoming Baseball and Black 14: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Wyoming Football
Kevin McKinney: Currently the senior associate athletics director for external affairs at the University of Wyoming, McKinney also serves as the radio color commentator for Wyoming football and men's basketball. McKinney has been involved with UW Athletics in some capacity since 1972. He was also inducted into the Wyoming Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2015.
Just The Facts: Size Doesn't Matter For Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium
- Just The Facts: Size Doesn't Matter For Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium