LARAMIE – When Austyn Carta-Samuels ran off the field after the 44-0 victory over Colorado State in the 2010 season finale, his mind was already made up.

He was leaving the University of Wyoming.

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The Cowboys former quarterback has never spoken publicly about that before.

He remembers embracing the fans, taking a long look around War Memorial Stadium, a place he would no longer call home. Admittedly, uncontrollable tears leaked from his eyes.

He wanted time to stop. He tried to soak it all in.

That was the last time “ACS” stepped foot on Jonah Field.

It was a brutal decision.

It ate at him.

His biggest regret, he said, was letting down the fans.

Chad Blakely graphic
Chad Blakely graphic

On Aug. 31, Carta-Samuels, now 28, will make his return to Laramie as the director of character and cultural development for the University of Missouri football team. His new job title also allows him to work closely with the Tigers’ quarterbacks.

It’s been nearly a decade since that day he said goodbye to the Wyoming faithful.

Last season, Carta-Samuels said it was special to coach against his former team in Columbia. The moment didn’t really hit him until he saw those brown and gold uniforms and the bucking horse on the helmets across from him.

He knows opening night in Laramie will be filled with a very different type of emotion.

“That is going to be -- I already know myself -- the tears will be flowing,” Carta-Samuels said. “When I get back there and the intro video is going, the band is playing and I’ll be standing there with Kelly Bryant, it will be a very ironic intersection of past and present.”

Rumors swirled about his sudden departure. Just a year earlier, Carta-Samuels had led the Cowboys to a New Mexico Bowl win over Fresno State in double overtime. He was named the game's MVP. He was the toast of the state. The future.

Carta-Samuels couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized.

Then, in 2010, the wheels came off. The blanking of the Cowboys Border War rivals was the highlight that season – by far. Wyoming finished the season 3-9.

Things were starting to unravel in the locker room, too, according to Carta-Samuels.

He watched numerous teammates transfer. He said the atmosphere surrounding the program was turning unhealthy. And it all started at the top.

In his opinion, then-head coach Dave Christensen didn’t “have the players’ backs.”

Carta-Samuels knows there’s a narrative or two out there about why he decided to leave Wyoming.


Now, he's setting the record straight.

“It’s just the way the culture was trending and my relationship with the head coach,” he said of his decision to leave following his sophomore season. “Dave gave me the program. He made me the face of it. That was all good and well, but things started to turn on us. I became extremely outspoken. The relationship was very friendly for a year, then things started trending downhill. He would throw us under the bus.

“I would ask him, ‘why are you doing this?’”

Christensen blocked his transfer, Carta-Samuels said. He couldn’t attend any Division-I school if he hoped to continue his football career.

Carta-Samuels passed for 3,655 yards during his two years at UW. He tossed 19 touchdown passes. The ultimate dual-threat, he rushed for six more.

Eventually, he landed on his feet.

He played in parts of two seasons at Vanderbilt and once again showed his toughness and resolve, playing the final four games of his career with a torn ACL. He knew that was the end of the road as a player, but he always had a desire to coach.

Turns out, Christensen inadvertently made that happen for him.

To add even more irony, Christensen came to UW from Missouri.

Gary Pinkel followed Dave and Wyoming,” Carta-Samuels said. “He saw a lot of comparison between me and (former Missouri quarterback) Chase Daniel and their relationship. Within 24 hours of him hearing that I wanted to coach, he called me. He had that inside knowledge about my character and drive.”

Carta-Samuels said he has no ill-will toward Christensen. In fact, they have ran into each other in Columbia.

“I went up and gave him a hug,” Carta-Samuels said. “It makes him uncomfortable, but the Missouri coaches believed heavily in me.”

UW courtesy photo
UW courtesy photo

Now, Carta-Samuels said he is working his “dream job.” With a background in psychology, his job is to create and maintain a culture within the Tigers’ program. He has already been tested this season with the team facing a one-year bowl ban for academic fraud.

The school is appealing the decision, but the football team still has plenty of goals to reach no matter what happens, Carta-Samuels said.

And one reason for optimism is the new guy under center, Clemson transfer, Bryant.

“He’s a hell of a player,” Carta-Samuels said. “The offense is already playing for him. He’s been here for seven months, and the whole team bought into him in 20-30 days. He has been impressive.”

And if Bryant goes wild against the Cowboys, you can blame Carta-Samuels – he recruited him to Columbia.

Tigers players have leaned on their coach for info about playing in Laramie. Yes, the altitude has come up. Carta-Samuels told them not to worry about that. The bigger issue will be in the home locker room and in the stands.

“That’s a really good football team over there with a great head coach,” he said of Craig Bohl and the Cowboys. “I told them to be ready for those crazy Wyoming fans who will be charged up to face an SEC team at home.”

Former Wyoming wide receiver David Leonard will be flying in to watch Carta-Samuels, his good friend and former roommate, take on his alma mater. There are some other surprises in store, but Carta-Samuels doesn’t want that made public.

UW courtesy photo
UW courtesy photo

The flight will be special. Driving through Laramie to the team hotel will be, too.

But walking onto that field again, Carta-Samuels said, will be like a career “coming full circle.”

One thing Carta-Samuels wants Cowboys fans to know is, this trip means so much to him because of you.

“I really loved Wyoming,” Carta-Samuels said. “That really got lost in the story. I loved the town and the fans. I couldn’t be more appreciative of the support.

“That isn’t coach-speak – that’s from the heart.”


* This story was originally posted in August of 2019 before Wyoming hosted Missouri in the season opener.

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