UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 14
LARAMIE -- During this summer series we are going to countdown the Top 50 football players in Wyoming history, presented by Premier Bone & Joint Centers, Worthy of Wyoming.
The rules are simple: What was the player's impact while in Laramie? That means NFL stats, draft status or any other accolade earned outside of UW is irrelevant when it comes to this list.
This isn't a one-man job. This task called for a panel of experts. Joining me is Robert Gagliardi, Jared Newland, Ryan Thorburn and Kevin McKinney. We all compiled our own list of 50 and let computer averages do the work. Think BCS -- only we hope this catalog is more fair.
Don't agree with a selection? Feel free to sound off on our Twitter page @7220sports.
Kick returner/ defensive back/ running back, 1965-67, Plainfield, New Jersey
Here's why: Vic Washington might have been the program's first superstar.
Think Deion Sanders, minus the flashy showboat stuff.
Washington rarely left the field during his three-year stint in Laramie. He's still one of the best lockdown corners in UW history. He is the best punt returner to this day.
Think about that for a second.
Despite the talent of returners like Darnell Clash, Anthony Sargent, Robert Rivers, Prentice Rhone, Hoost Marsh, David Leonard and Austin Conway, Washington is still the standard in Laramie.
In 1967, the season the Cowboys went 10-0 in the regular season before falling 20-13 to LSU in the Sugar Bowl, Washington tallied 565 return yards, including a 145-yard day against Arizona State in a 15-13 win in Tempe. That was the second best season performance in the nation. The year prior, Washington was the best, amassing 443 yards on just 34 returns.
Washington returned three punts for touchdowns during his career, but it was a kick return for a score that is burned into the memories of those who witnessed it, including Kevin McKinney, who was in the audience when Washington stunned the crowd in Provo with a 95-yard return.
Washington was a three-time All-Western Athletic honoree. In 2005, the school elected him to the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame.
McKinney's take: When I think of Vic Washington, I think of one word -- dynamic.
To opponents he was just plain scary. "Sir Victor," as folks called him at that time, was Mr. Everything for his team. He was a starting cornerback, or left halfback as they called them back in the late 60’s. He played defense for the Cowboys as well as flanker, and returned punts and kickoffs.
Those returns were where he was most dangerous for those bowl teams in 1966 and 1967.
The fastest man on the team, he led the nation in punt returns his junior season, returning two for touchdowns. I will never forget (I was there) his electrifying 95-yard kickoff return against Brigham Young in Wyoming’s Western Athletic Conference title win at Provo. He was a lock-down corner (okay, halfback). He deflected 22 passes as a sophomore with three interceptions and produced four more interceptions his junior year with 40 unassisted tackles and 14 deflections.
Along with Dick Speights, he made up the best defensive halfback combination in the league. He returned 53 punts for an average of 10.6 yards per return as a junior, and averaged 13 yards per return as a sophomore. He returned four of those punts for touchdowns. He was only one of two sophomores to make the All-WAC first team in 1966.
Every time he touched the football, you expected something exciting to happen, and it usually did. He was elected to the UW Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005. He produced a long career in the NFL with San Francisco, Houston and Buffalo.
He was as dangerous a player as there was in the country at the time. His speed and quickness were extraordinary. To this day, I have never seen a Cowboy more electrifying than Washington. Without question he was the greatest two-way player Wyoming has ever had.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (25), Robert Gagliardi (8), Jared Newland (16), Ryan Thorburn (29), Kevin McKinney (5)
Previous selections: No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16
Cody Tucker: Brand Manager and creator of 7220sports.com. Tucker has covered the Cowboys since June of 2019, but was a season-ticket holder for nearly three decades. Tucker has also covered Michigan State University Athletics for the Lansing State Journal and Detroit Free Press and the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins during his 10-year journalism career
Robert Gagliardi: Former sports editor and University of Wyoming beat reporter for WyoSports. Gagliardi covered the Cowboys from more than a quarter century. He also covered the team at the Branding Iron, the UW student newspaper. Gagliardi also co-authored the book: The Border War: The Bronze Boot Rivalry Between Colorado State and Wyoming
Jared Newland: Currently the local sales manager for Townsquare Media SE Wyoming, Newland worked with and around Wyoming athletics for 20 years, starting as a student athletic trainer in 1990. Newland has also served in the Sports Information Office, the Cowboy Joe Club, Wyoming Sports Properties and was a UW Athletics Hall of Fame Committee Member from 2002-14.
Ryan Thorburn: Currently covering the Oregon Ducks for The Register-Guard, Thorburn also covered the Cowboys in the early and mid-90's for the Branding Iron and Casper Star Tribune. He has also written four books about Wyoming Athletics: The Border War: The Bronze Boot Rivalry Between Colorado State and Wyoming, Cowboy Up: Kenny Sailors, The Jump Shot and Wyoming’s Championship Basketball History, Lost Cowboys: The Story of Bud Daniel and Wyoming Baseball and Black 14: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Wyoming Football
Kevin McKinney: Currently the senior associate athletics director for external affairs at the University of Wyoming, McKinney also serves as the radio color commentator for Wyoming football and men's basketball. McKinney has been involved with UW Athletics in some capacity since 1972. He was also inducted into the Wyoming Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2015.