UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 34
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.
Defensive end, 2012-15, Aurora, Colorado
Here's why: This guy has an infectious smile and can play a mean ukulele.
He also loved crushing quarterbacks. Anyone who processed the ball, actually.
Eddie Yarbrough is ranked ninth in program history with 21.5 sacks in his Wyoming career. Unlike some pass rushers, this Colorado product wasn't just a one-trick pony -- he was also a menace against the rush. He is No. 1 in the record books in the category of tackle for loss. He racked up 39 of those in four seasons, three ahead of John Fletcher.
Yarbrough is also tied for fifth in single-game sacks (twice, against Idaho and UNLV, he registered three sacks), eighth in single-season tackles for loss (12 in 2013) and tied for first -- and eighth place -- in single-game tackles for loss. He tallied four in a 2012 game against the Rebels. He also picked up 3.5 once the following year against the Vandals.
Yes, those all went down in the same game.
Talk about dominance.
When I think of Yarbrough, the first word that comes to mind is underrated.
Maybe it's because the Cowboys didn't win a lot when No. 55 was setting the edge. Wyoming won just 15 games during his tenure in Laramie. The most the team ever won in a season was five games back in 2013.
Still, Yarbrough was twice a first-team All-Mountain West selection. He earned second-team honors as a senior, too.
One day, he will be in the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame.
Yarbrough is currently a free agent in the NFL after having stints with the Broncos, Bills and most recently, the Minnesota Vikings.
Gagliardi's take: Prior to signing with the University of Wyoming, Eddie Yarbrough played linebacker in high school in the Denver area. He never played a snap at defensive end, and never lined up in a three-point stance.
To say that transition went well for Yarbrough once he arrived in Laramie would be an understatement.
Yarbrough is Wyoming’s all-time leader in tackles for loss with 39, and is ninth in quarterback sacks with 21.5. He is tied with six others for the most tackles-for-loss in a game with four, and Yarbrough had 3.5 TFLs in two other games. He also recorded three sacks in a game twice during his Cowboys career.
“Is he the best athlete on the team? No. Is he one of the best football players on the team? Yes. When the lights turn on, he plays really fast,” said former Wyoming defensive ends coach A.J. Cooper prior to Yarbrough’s senior season in 2015.
Yarbrough’s statistics backup his No. 34 ranking on this list, but if you want more he earned first team All-Mountain West honors as a sophomore and junior, and was a second team pick as a senior. Yarbrough also was a two-year captain.
But what stands out the most to me about Yarbrough — his smile. I lost count how many times I interviewed him, or even saw him around the football complex, but he always had a smile and always acknowledged me by saying: “Hello, Mr. Gagliardi, how are you doing today?”
Yarbrough also loved music, including playing musical instruments. At MW Football Media Day activities in Las Vegas in 2015 he brought his ukulele and played a piece for me. He was a hit among the coaches, players and media.
Yarbrough never played on a winning team at UW, but he was a winner in every sense of the word as a player and person.
And, here is the YouTube link to the video I shot of him playing the ukulele in Vegas in 2015.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (28), Robert Gagliardi (28), Jared Newland (NR), Ryan Thorburn (33), Kevin McKinney (36)
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.
DUMB: 10 Absolute WORST Tourist Incidents at Yellowstone National Park