LARAMIE – For most, growing up a young football player in
Oklahoma, the goal is to one day become a Sooner or a Cowboy.

Jaylon Watson was no different.

A native of Broken Bow, he even added the other local school to his wish list.

“I wanted to go there,” he said of Tulsa, who Wyoming plays
Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. MST. “I went to all their camps. They told me I
was too short to play.”

In fact, coaches apparently told him he was just a half-inch
too short.

You think Wyoming’s senior fullback is motivated for this
one?

Sure, he’s eager to prove his home-state school that they
were wrong to overlook him. Not to mention Watson has blossomed into a 6-foot, 241-pound
wrecking ball out of the Pokes’ backfield.

But he has more important reasons why this game is the biggest
of his college career.

“Hopefully my grandpa will come,” Watson said. “He hasn’t
gotten to watch me play in college. He’s been sick and can’t get around that
easy.

“He’ll be there, hopefully. It will mean a lot. It will be kind
of emotional.”

Lonnie Watson Sr. resides in an assisted living facility in Broken Bow, three hours southeast of Tulsa. Watson Sr. used to attend as many games as he could. He watched his grandson play basketball, baseball, football and run track in high school. Now, he’s relegated to watching him play on television, more than 15 hours away.

“I want him to be in the stands,” Watson said of his
grandfather.

Unfortunately, Watson Sr. told me Thursday that he won’t be
able to make the trip.

“I’m proud of him,” his grandfather said. “That’s my
grandson. It’s too bad my health isn’t good. I know he wished I could be there.”

There are at least 45 other friends and family that will be in attendance, according to Watson’s father, Lonnie Watson Jr.

Three of those tickets belong to the Comptons.

Jaylon Watson and Dalton Compton were best friends growing up. They played baseball together. Rode bikes and talked about hopes and dreams. They both set a goal to play at the collegiate level. In 2015, their dreams became a reality.

Compton was heading to Murray State to play baseball. Watson
earned a scholarship to UW.

But in the early hours of June 27, Compton’s Chevy Silverado
veered off the road on U.S. 70 north of Idabel, Okla. His truck hit an
embankment, going airborne. The truck rolled three times. Compton was
pronounced dead on the scene.

He was just 18.

Compton’s parents, Keith and Lisa, as well as their daughter, Ashley, will be making the trip to Tulsa Saturday. It will be the first opportunity to see their son’s best friend play in person.

“That’s a heart-warming one,” Lonnie Watson Jr. said over the phone Thursday afternoon. “Jaylon always wears an armband that says, “Comp 4.” He has a tattoo of Dalton. It’s special that they are coming up to watch. Deep down, that will be more touching to him having them coming up. That’s going to be more special to him than anything.”

“The Compton’s love Jaylon to death,” his mother, Jennifer Watson said. “We share so many memories of our boys together, playing baseball especially. So sad how Dalton passed.”

Little league coaches, in-laws, neighborhood friends and
former teammates will all be in attendance at Chapman Stadium. The Wyoming
Cowboys football games have become a fixture on Saturday’s in their small town
of just over 4,000.

“This is more special for us,” his father said. “It’s home
and we have lots of family. It’s a good time and we are blessed. There will be
a big ol’ photo opp. at the end. We are happy to see him, and happy to see
team. It will be great to have some of the men and women who have made a
difference in his life.”

Watson does the dirty work for the Cowboys. Stats don’t tell his story. Instead, he opens holes for Wyoming running backs like Xazavian Valladay, Trey Smith and Titus Swen. He also keeps quarterback Sean Chambers upright. He did the same for Josh Allen.

Watson came to Laramie as a linebacker and left as a lead blocker. He has already graduated and is pursuing a career in strength and conditioning. His father says he met his soulmate in Laramie, his girlfriend, Delaney Mullins. Watson doesn’t even have much of southern accent anymore.

Is his father still upset about Tulsa shunning his son?

“If god would’ve meant for him to be at Tulsa, or anywhere else,
he would’ve put him there,” Watson Jr. said.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to see the Cowboys
take it to the Golden Hurricane on his home turf.

“Do I want to beat them really bad? Yeah,” he laughed. “I’m
not going to lie, yes I do. I want to run the score up on them.”

Watson isn’t going that far, but his bright smile tells you
all you need to know.

“I was overlooked like a lot of Oklahoma kids,” he said. “We
live for going back and playing teams that didn’t want you. It’s all love, but
that’s how it goes.”

Watson is the only Okie on the current roster. This one just
means more.

“It’s going to be good,” he said. “I’ve been looking forward
to this game since I saw it on the schedule two years ago. Hopefully we can put
everything together. If we do, we will be unstoppable.”