Top 10 Cowboy football players from Colorado
LARAMIE – Steve Addazio is on the campaign trail.
“Box ‘em in” is the new battle cry.
Colorado State’s first-year football coach is attempting something that his predecessor, Mike Bobo, was often criticized for – letting in-state recruits head elsewhere. Addazio and his staff, via Twitter, visited more than 65 Colorado high schools last week.
And speaking of 65 …
Look no further than 65 miles north on Highway 287 to the University of Wyoming, where 22 of the 108 players on the roster hail from the Centennial State. CSU boasted 33 local players on its 110-man roster but was also littered with 36 players from the south, Bobo’s old stomping ground.
Those numbers looked great for CSU when the star rankings came out in recruiting, but the on-field product has been less than impressive since 2014 when Jim McElwain led the Rams to a 10-3 record before bolting to Florida. Since, CSU has gone 28-35 with zero bowl victories.
That’s not even the stat that gets under the skin of the Rams faithful the most. That one is 0-12 – CSU’s record against rivals Colorado, Air Force and Wyoming over the past four seasons.
All of this got me thinking – Who are the best players in Wyoming to come from Colorado? Lord knows there are plenty to choose from.
Just a quick glance at the UW record books shows that Colorado players have not only worn the brown and gold in droves, they have excelled in Laramie.
Here, in no particular order, are the Top-10 Wyoming Cowboy football players from Colorado:
- Cooper Rothe, Placekicker, 2016-19, Longmont, Colo.
In 2019, Rothe became the leading scorer in Wyoming football history, surpassing Sean Fleming, who finished his four-year career with 324 points. Rothe has 342. And to make the moment even more special, Rothe nailed that record-breaking tally on an extra-point attempt against – you guessed it – CSU, a school that never gave him a shot, though he grew up a Rams fan and his grandfather attended school in Fort Collins.
- Galand Thaxton, linebacker, 1984-87, Denver, Colo.
Wyoming’s all-time leading tackler, Galand Thaxton was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999. Thaxton, who graduated from Denver South High School, racked up 467 tackles between 1984-87. His final two seasons in Laramie are still the best in school history when it comes to taking down the ball carrier. In 1986, Thaxton had a school record 158 tackles. As a senior, he finished with 143. Thaxton was a third-team All-American that season and played briefly in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers.
- Jovon Bouknight, wide receiver, 2002-05, Denver, Colo.
I guess CSU and Colorado didn’t need this guy? Well, Wyoming did. And, boy, did he produce. Jovon Bouknight is the school’s leader in all-purpose yards with 5,642. He is third all-time in receiving yards at Wyoming, behind only Ryan Yarborough and Marcus Harris, with 3,626 yards. He also snagged 250 passes during his time in a Cowboys uniform, which is second all-time. His 29 touchdown catches also puts him in the top three in that category in program history. Bouknight, the wide receivers coach at the University of Oregon, is fresh off a 28-27 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.
- Marques Brigham, running back, 1995-98, Denver, Colo.
This guy is often overlooked when it comes to great runners in Wyoming history. When you are up against Brian Hill, Devin Moore, Ryan Christopherson, Jim Kiick, and many others, its easy to get lost in the shuffle. Brigham must’ve gotten lost in recruiting down in Fort Collins. In 1996, he made the Rams pay. With a WAC Pacific title on the line, Brigham scampered five yards into the end zone to cap a 96-yard drive at snowy Hughes Stadium to give the Cowboys the division crown and a berth in the inaugural WAC Championship game in Las Vegas. Brigham is the fifth leading rusher in school history with 2,605 yards. His 25 touchdowns is good enough for seventh in program lore.
- Brian Hendricks, linebacker, 2008-11, Burlington, Colo.
This ball of fury and muscle comes out of small-town Colorado and had a CSU pedigree. “Had” is the keyword. Brian Henricks’ father was a Ram. So was his grandfather. Brian wanted to be a Cowboy. During his four years in Laramie, Hendricks had the single greatest game in Wyoming history for any defensive player, tallying 23 tackles against Air Force in 2009. His 18 stops against Colorado that same season is good enough for seventh all time. Hendricks went 3-1 against CSU in college and was a big part of the Pokes’ 44-0 beatdown of the Rams in 2010. It is still the most lopsided win in the history of the Border War. Henricks is currently the defensive line coach at Illinois State. Even his Redbirds got in on the act of beating the Rams. ISU won in Fort Collins, 35-19, back in 2018.
- Brian Lee, safety, 1994-97, Arvada, Colo.
Brian Lee’s 17 career interceptions at UW is still the standard. He picked off a record-breaking eight passes in 1996. For good measure, he picked off eight more the following season. Twice Lee picked off three passes in a game (SMU, 1996, Montana, 1997), which is also still a school record. In 1997, Lee was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers of America, Football News, Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Associated Press. Remember that 1996 Border War mentioned above? You know, the one with snow and a division title on the line? Lee capped that with an interception to send the Cowboys to Las Vegas.
- Gabe Knapton, linebacker, 2008-11, Mead, Colo.
Before he was a mainstay in the Canadian Football League, Gabe Knapton was busy hitting everything in site in Laramie. The linebacker from Colorado is the seventh leading tackler in Wyoming history with 368. In a game at UNLV in 2008, Knapton was in on 18 tackles, which is still good enough for seventh all time. His three sacks against New Mexico two years later is still the fifth-best single-game performance for any Cowboy. Knapton lives in the opponents’ backfield, tallying 22.5 tackles for loss in his four-year career. That’s the ninth-best mark in program lore.
- Andrew Wingard, safety, 2015-18, Arvada, Colo.
This guy hammered out 454 career tackles, tying him for the most in Mountain West Conference history. I guess CSU and CU didn’t need a guy like that? Andrew Wingard, known for his flowing blonde hair and propensity for dropping ball carriers on their wallet, is No. 2 all-time in Wyoming history when it comes to tackling. Wingard is now a safety and special teams player for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not too shabby for an undersized player that wasn’t even recruited by the Rams.
- Tanner Gentry, wide receiver, 2013-16, Aurora, Colo.
This guy was Josh Allen’s go-to target in Laramie, racking up 2,815 receiving yards, which is still good enough for fifth all-time in UW history. Gentry was recruited by CSU, CU and even Air Force, but decided to ply his wears in Laramie, where he snagged 20 touchdown passes. That mark is fourth all-time, tied with Robert Herron. After spending two seasons with the Chicago Bears, Gentry signed with the New York Guardians of the new XFL. His younger brother, Gunner, followed in his footsteps and is going to be a junior in 2020.
- Eddie Yarbrough, defensive end, 2012-15, Aurora, Colo.
This guy quietly had a dominating career in Laramie. Eddie Yarbrough is ninth all-time with 21.5 career sacks, including tallying three sacks in a game twice, the first time against UNLV in 2012, and again the following season versus Idaho. Tackles for loss is where this Colorado product made hay. He has 39 stops behind the line of scrimmage. That’s the most in school history. Twelve of those came in 2013. He had four against the Rebels in 2012, which is still tied for most in a single game. Yarbrough is currently a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
Steve Scifres (UW Hall of Famer)
Joe Ramunno (UW Hall of Famer)
Derek Martin (Pictured)
I’m sure we missed a few players from Colorado who belong on this list. Hopefully just a few. Either way, let us hear who some of your favorite UW players are from that state down south.
- This was a column written for our new 7220sports.com Patreon page. This is an example of some of the stories we will be putting on the page throughout the season. That, and a ton of behind-the-scenes video and commentary from our many adventures covering the Cowboys. If you want to become a member, please visit this link: PATREON