‘He’s the right man to do it’
LARAMIE -- Chad Muma's cell phone buzzed on Sunday morning.
It was Logan Wilson.
Despite having a game in Indianapolis in mere hours, the Cincinnati Bengals rookie linebacker took time out of his gameday routine to give his former teammate some props.
"He congratulated me on becoming a captain," Muma smiled. "I just thanked him for everything he taught me. He helped allow me to get into this position I am today."
The position Muma finds himself in is at starting middle linebacker for the University of Wyoming. The junior, along with three other teammates, did earn the moniker of captain last Saturday.
There's also an elephant in the room.
The guy who called him is the person he is tasked with replacing.
When some hear the word "replacing" they think of stats and accolades. For Muma, it's more of a leadership role.
"I'm comfortable pushing these guys to where they need to be at," Muma said early in camp. "I'm just getting guys together and bringing energy to the team when we need it."
Muma was once the young kid in that very linebacker room.
He sat wide-eyed as guys like Chavez Pownell, Cassh Maluia, Ben Wisdorf and Wilson set the tone on and off the field.
Now, it's players like Charles Hicks, Shae Suiaunoa and Easton Gibbs awaiting Muma's directives.
"It's a little weird," Muma said of being thrust into the "old man" of the unit. "I'm used to having those older guys around me. I learned from those guys."
Wisdorf said he knew early on there was something special about Muma.
"The sky is the limit with Chad," Wisdorf said. "He's got everything you want to see out of the linebacker position. He can cover guys, he's smart, he's a leader and he can tackle. He's similar -- and I don't want to compare -- to the guy whose shoes he's going to fill.
"He's the right man to do it."
In his first season as a regular on the Cowboy defense, the Lone Tree, Colo., product racked up 51 tackles and a sack. The special teams standout also batted down a pass.
What sets Muma apart, Wisdorf said, are his intangibles.
"Just his intelligence alone," he said. "His instincts on the field. As a true freshman, he was by far the smartest freshman I've seen. He picked up the defense (scheme) really quick and earned the trust of the coaches faster than I've seen. He knows what he's doing on the field. He's a rock.
"He just has that knack for it. You play a bit faster and you're always around ball. Logan had that as well."
Will this be a seamless transition for Muma.
Head coach Craig Bohl sure seems hopeful.
"Chad is really a bright young guy," Bohl said. "He’s put on probably 15 pounds of lean muscle mass. He’s played a lot of football for us, and I think he feels like he can utilize that experience."
Muma has been around Cowboy football his entire life -- literally.
As a kid, he used to play catch in the pine trees in the south end zone of War Memorial Stadium. He watched old game films.
It could be safe to say Muma was born to be a Cowboy.
His father Ty Muma played for the Pokes from 1990-91. His maternal grandfather, Rick Desmarais, was a Cowboy from 1961-63.
"I used to come to games all the time," Muma said back in September of 2019. "I loved coming up here and hearing about my dad’s glory days here. Growing up, I knew I wanted to play college football.
"When I finally got the opportunity -- especially at Wyoming -- I wanted to be here."
Bohl raved about the effort Muma put forth this offseason. He saw a different look in the 6-foot, 3-inch, 227-pounder. Not just physically, which is apparent even over Zoom meetings, but cerebrally.
"As he looks around the room, he knows he’s the elder statesman in the room now," Bohl said. "Sometimes when you’re in that situation the light bulb comes on and you realize you are now in a position to lead.
"He’s going to be one of the leaders of our defense."
Saturday evening in Reno, Muma will lead the Cowboys defense on to the field for the first time. Wyoming and Nevada will open the season in front of 30,000 empty, silver seats inside Mackay Stadium.
COVID-19 has done a number on the world. Wyoming football was not immune.
That's why the chants early this week in the weight room not only turned that light bulb on again, it had Muma feeling grateful.
"I think the moment it kind of hit me (that we are actually playing) this morning in lifting group," he smiled. "Guys were yelling, 'It's game week! It's game week!'
"It's been so long since we had a game week."