Former UW players Weigh-In On The Top Four Stars in Program History
By Cody Tucker, Cowboy State Daily
CHEYENNE — Sports are on a hiatus. That’s no secret.
Now, we are limited to online polls, all-time lists and dropping opinions about our favorite players, games, moments, etc. Daily, the University of Wyoming is asking fans on social media who the best players are in its storied history.
On my website, 7220sports.com, we just posted our 68th story in a series we call “Who wore it best.” Which UW football players “own” their jersey number is the basis of what was supposed to serve as a way to have new, fresh content on our site every day.
The best part for me is learning Cowboy football history.
For fans, it’s about the debate.
Let’s add to that — who would go on the Mount Rushmore of Wyoming football?
Four players who did more, meant more and own names that roll off the tongue from Tongue River to Evanston, Jackson to Pine Bluffs.
I’ve wrestled with this one. Only four?
It has to be done. So, here goes:
Marcus Harris, wide receiver, 1993-96
For me, this one is a no-brainer. Harris was the NCAA’s all-time leading receiver when he left Laramie. He won the Biletnikoff Trophy, which is given to the nation’s top receiver. He still owns most of the pass-catching records in UW history: yards (4,518), receptions (259), single-season yards (1,650), single-game yards (260-Fresno State), single-game receptions (16-Iowa State). That’s just scratching the surface. Harris was also a Heisman Trophy candidate in 1996. He finished ninth in the voting. Harris was a seventh-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions. He never played a down in the NFL. That doesn’t matter when it comes to this vote.
Ryan Yarborough, wide receiver, 1990-93
Before that guy above broke every record in the book, they all belonged to Yarborough. He still owns the career touchdown mark at UW with 42, four more than Harris. Yarborough fit perfectly into Joe Tiller’s “basketball on grass” offense, hauling in 239 passes for 4,446 yards. He was a two-time All-American and held the NCAA record for most games with a touchdown reception with 27. “Yards” was a second-round pick of the New York Jets in 1994. He played just two seasons in the Big Apple and spent time with the Packers and Ravens.
Mitch Donahue, defensive end, 1987-90
This super athlete came to Laramie thanks to Dennis Erickson, who spent just one season as the head coach at UW. He thrived under an “old guy no one knew,” Paul Roach. Donahue still owns the school’s all-time sack record with 49. That’s 19 more than his teammate, Pat Rabold. The Billings, Montana, product racked up a record 22 sacks in 1990. Three times that season — against Utah, New Mexico and UTEP — Donahue tallied three sacks in a game. He was a two-time Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Donahue was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 1991 NFL Draft.
Casey Bramlet, quarterback, 2000-03
This Wheatland product won just nine games during his four seasons at UW. It was one of the lowest periods of Cowboy football. Despite the mounting losses, Bramlet always seemed to give off a ray of hope. Bramlet owns the school record for career yards (9,684), pass attempts (1,378), completions (767). He has the second-most touchdown passes with 56. So why on earth would Bramlet make this list? He got sacked, hit and beat up — and he got up every single time. He was an All-Conference player in all four seasons. He went undrafted in 2001, but spent time with the Bengals and Redskins. He played in NFL Europe and won the MVP of the World Bowl as a signal caller for the Hamburg Sea Devils.
Now, let’s rip my picks apart.
Not one of these guys ever won a bowl game. All played in the 90’s and early 2000’s. None had sustained success in the NFL.
What about Josh Allen? Where’s Jim Kiick? No Eddie Talboom, Jerry DePoyster, Ryan Christopherson, Brian Hill or Jay Novacek?
There are plenty of greats to choose from, but the main factor in my picks — I saw them all play with my own eyes.
I played the part of Marcus Harris in the backyard, playing catch with my buddies as a kid in Cheyenne. At age 12, I flew by myself to Las Vegas for the inaugural WAC title game against BYU. Josh Wallwork, Richard Peace, Jay Jenkins, Jim Talich … my list of favorites could go on and on.
Let’s see who some former UW football players would put on their Mount Rushmore:
Jeff Boyle (1997-2000): Marcus Harris, Ryan Yarborough, Conrad Dobler, Josh Allen
Jovon Bouknight (2002-05): Jay Novacek, Marcus Harris, Ryan Yarborough, Josh Allen
Mitch Donahue (1987-90): Jim Kiick, (coach) Paul Roach, Randy Welniak, Conrad Dobler
Chase Appleby (2014-16): Brett Smith, Josh Allen, Brian Hill, Mitch Donahue
Mitch Unrein (2006-09): Josh Allen, Marcus Harris, Mitch Donahue, Jay Novacek
Don Clayton (1975-78): Paul Nunu, Conrad Dobler, Aaron Kyle, Kevin McClain
Brian Hendricks (2008-11): Jay Novacek, Jim Kiick, Marcus Harris, (coach) Phil Dickens
Ryan Christopherson (1991-94): Mitch Donahue, Ryan Yarborough, Jay Novacek, Josh Allen