Elation To Devastation: NFL Draft Produces Emotional Weekend For Pair Of Pokes

It was all champagne for Wyoming's All-American linebacker Cody Tucker. While it was very quiet for teammate Alijah Halliburton.

Annaliese Wiederspahn

May 04, 20203 min read

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Logan Wilson Lands In Cincinnati While Alijah Halliburton Still Waits For The Call

CHEYENNE — The tears flowed. So did the shots and champagne.

That best describes the scene at the east Casper home of Wyoming All-American linebacker, Logan Wilson, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the first pick of the third round of the NFL Draft.

It wasn’t a matter of if for the three-time captain, it was when. Things were different for his teammate, Alijah Halliburton.

Less than 24 hours later, inside a seventh-floor suite of a Denver hotel room, the Cowboy safety awaited the most important phone call of his young life.

In his one season as a starter, Halliburton racked up a Mountain West leading 130 tackles and claimed a Defensive MVP trophy in the Arizona Bowl. He sat calmly, quietly on a couch just feet away from a large flat screen television mounted on the wall. 

His cell never rang. The bottle of bubbly on his counter never got popped.

It’s in that moment one realizes playing in the NFL is not a right, it’s a privilege. One just a couple hundred players per season get. And there are no guarantees.

Cassh Maluia, another UW linebacker, was taken by New England in the fifth round. Atlanta, a team that was in contact with Halliburton for the better part of a month, snagged teammate Tyler Hall minutes after the draft as a free agent.

That was a bittersweet moment. 

Was Halliburton happy for his teammates? Of course. But did it add to the misery of the day? I’ll go with yes.

Halliburton wasn’t the only Cowboy feeling these emotions.

Placekicker, Cooper Rothe, Wyoming’s all-time leading scorer, still hasn’t received a call. Neither have wide receivers Raghib Ismail Jr. and John Okwoli. Punter Ryan Galovich, defensive end Josiah Hall  and Casper product, tight end Josh Harshman, are all still free agents, too.

Last Friday, Wilson was busy giving hugs and doing interviews with the Cincinnati media. 

“It’s hard to explain,” Wilson said of his emotions. “It’s overwhelming. My heart is still pounding.

“I’m just excited they picked me.”

Saturday, Halliburton, who was also supposed to be celebrating his 22nd birthday, said his goodbyes to family and friends, thanking them for waiting with him. He couldn’t leave that room fast enough.

“I’m pissed,” he said quietly inside the hotel hallway. “I’m sad. I can’t control any of it. That’s the worst part.”

It’s the pure, raw emotion that makes draft day can’t-miss television. Seeing it in person makes it all the more real. Dreams are validated and dashed in the matter of a weekend.

Some see professional athletes as no more than overpaid and overvalued in our society. Sometimes, that couldn’t be more true. In this case, however, it was about seeing a goal reached. For Wilson, a Wyoming native, it was the culmination of hard work, dedication and always doing the right thing.

The same can be said for Halliburton. The right people just didn’t take notice — yet. 

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Annaliese Wiederspahn

State Political Reporter