Need another excuse to cheer for the Bengals?
LARAMIE -- Logan Wilson said Friday he had no idea there was another Wyoming tie on the Cincinnati Bengals roster.
Yes, for real. He's even on Wilson's side of the ball.
Wyatt Ray, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end who played his college ball at Boston College, is the son of former UW tight end Julian Hooker, who suited up in Laramie from 1994-98.
"I told him," Hooker laughed Friday afternoon before boarding a plane to Los Angles for Super Bowl LVI between his son's Bengals and the LA Rams. "I was like, did you tell Logan?"
Hooker caught 40 passes for 526 yards and six touchdowns for the Cowboys, including hauling in the lone touchdown pass in UW's 16-9 road loss between the hedges to No. 12 Georgia back in 1998. That was a nine-yard strike from Jay Stoner.
Ray, Hooker said, was lightly recruited by Wyoming but ended up at Chestnut Hill where he played for former Colorado State head coach Steve Addazio. Ray also received offers from Louisville, Indiana and Minnesota.
An undrafted free agent in 2019, Ray signed with the Browns before bouncing around practice squads in Houston, Buffalo, New York (Jets) and Tennessee. Ray suited up for the Titans in four games during the 2020 season, registering his first-career sack on Aaron Rodgers during the final game of the regular season.
Cincinnati claimed him off waivers last September.
Ray recorded a stat in eight games for the Bengals this fall, including a three-tackle performance against the Brown in January. He also forced a fumble on a sack of Case Keenum that afternoon inside FirstEnergy Stadium. Ray Finished the season with 15 tackles in a reserve role.
"To see him growing up -- I thought he was going to be like a little nerd -- to seeing this, I'm very proud of him," Hooker joked.
A little nerd?
"Just the way his mother treated him. Just the environment," Hooker joked. "They're part of a celebrity family."
Ray is the grandson of music Legend Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole was his aunt. Hooker, who is technically Ray's step father, entered his life when he was eight. Ray's biological father died when he was just six months old.
"Just with his upbringing, I was like, this kid's going to be soft," he said. "But fortunately, I was put in the right place to help him not be soft."
A standout at powerhouse, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), Ray became a third-team All-ACC performer by his senior season after waiting behind Harold Landry and Zach Allen on the Eagles' defensive edges.
Hooker said he thinks back to the humble beginnings in Fort Lauderdale. He said the two would watch college and NFL games with Ray often saying he wanted to do that one day.
Now, he's in the Super Bowl.
"Just to know where he came from," Hooker said. "He just continues to blossom. It's beautiful, man. I'm very proud of him."
Hooker, who still calls south Florida home, is a partner in a pair of companies and sells medical devices that remove pulmonary embolisms, in his corporate life. He said he still pays very close attention to the Wyoming football program and hopes to make it back to Laramie this fall.
His youngest daughter, Juliana, recently signed her letter of intent to play softball at the University of Illinois, in Hooker's home state. He joked that he can't wait to help her move into her dorm room this fall.
The Cowboys open their 2022 season in Champaign against the Fighting Illini.
"We'll get to see the first road win of the year," Hooker said.
As excited as he is to see his son compete for his chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy Sunday inside SoFi Stadium, Hooker added that he will be paying plenty of attention to No. 55, too.
"Every time I see Wilson on the back of the jersey, I just light up," he said. "I mean, once you're a Cowboy, you're always a Cowboy. It's beautiful. I'm very proud of him. I watched him in college. He's very aggressive, always around the ball and seems like a very smart person. I never met him, but he seems like a great guy, somebody you want to have in the locker room.
"So, let's go. Let's go do the damn thing, Wilson."
Will Hooker have any words of advice for his son before he runs out of the tunnel?
"Same thing I say all the time -- 'Every play is your last. Go out there and just lay your nuts down and let it go. Let it rip,'" he said.