UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 27
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.
Running back, 1991-94, Glendale, Arizona
Here's why: I'll never forget when Ryan Christopherson told me he almost didn't come back to Laramie after his first season.
He was buried on the depth chart behind guys like Terry Hendricks and Dwight Driver, among others. He didn't see any light at the end of the tunnel. That's when head coach Joe Tiller challenged him to come back ready to play.
It didn't take long for "Ryno" to make his presence felt and eventually become the leading rusher in Wyoming football history.
Christopherson, as well as Mitch Donahue and Ryan Yarborough, were my first recollection of a super star at UW. Watching big No. 34 take handoffs and breakthrough the line of scrimmage and into the open was replayed again and again on the schoolyards of Cheyenne in my era.
Christopherson, all 5-foot-11, 237 pounds of him, gashed opposing defenses to the tune of 2,906 yards during his four seasons on campus. That is still the third-best mark at UW behind only Devin Moore (2,963 yards) and Brian Hill (4,287 yards). He also scored 19 rushing touchdowns and averaged five yards per carry throughout his career.
Christopherson's 1994 campaign was the best all-time before Hill smashed those records in 2015 and '16. The Arizona product, who was originally from Gillette, rushed for 1,455 yards and 10 scores that season. Christopherson also owns the fourth-best single-game rushing day in school history. You might remember him going around and through UTEP defenders for 244 yards on just 27 carries back in '94.
The Cowboys' bell cow is still the leader in average carries per game with 25. Against Northeast Louisiana in '94, he rushed the ball 37 times. That's tied with Steve Cockreham for the most all time.
Christopherson was an All-Western Athletic Conference first-team selection after his senior campaign. He was a four-time WAC Scholar Athlete as well as a four-time Academic All-WAC first-team selection.
Christopherson became the eighth pick in the history of the Jacksonville Jaguars when the team selected him 169th overall in the fifth round of the 1995 NFL Draft. He spent time with the Jaguars, Cardinals and Broncos in his brief pro career.
In 2006, Christopherson was enshrined in the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame.
Newland's take: I had the fortune of being a student athletic trainer during the same time Ryan was playing and was at almost every practice during this time.
"Ryno," as he was referred to, was the most dedicated football player that I can recall in regard to taking care of his body. He was in the training room daily stretching, getting massages and rehabbing any nagging injuries that he had and off the field, he ate very healthy.
Ryan earned every accolade he garnered both on and off the field. He was as a very good student as well earning Academic All-America honors his senior season.
Whether it was in practice or a game, Ryan had one speed and that was full go. He had deceiving speed for such a big back.
I recall one play where he went into motion to the far side of the field and received a screen pass. The wideouts did their job blocking and he took it over 50 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. None of the opponents' defensive backs could catch up to him and you could tell that it took the wind out of their sails after getting dusted by him.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (24), Robert Gagliardi (30), Jared Newland (41), Ryan Thorburn (16), Kevin McKinney (48)
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
Cody Tucker: Brand Manger 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.
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