UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 35
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 tackle, 1984-87, Yuma, Colorado
Here's why: When you are tied for having the second most sacks in school history 34 years after you graduated, you are landing on this list.
That's exactly what Jeff Knapton did.
His 30 quarterback takedowns is tied with Pat Rabold, and 19 behind the all-time leader in this category, Mitch Donahue.
Want to hear something scary? All three of these guys were on the same defense in 1987. So was Galand Thaxton, David Edeen, Doug Rigby, Mike Schenbeck, Robert Midgett and Craig Schlichting, among others.
It's amazing that Cowboys' defense gave up a yard.
Knapton registered 19 sacks that season and was named First-Team All-Western Athletic Conference. That is still the second best single-season in program history.
Wyoming went 10-3 overall in '87. The Pokes were a perfect 8-0 in conference play, claiming their first league title since 1976. They would go on to San Diego and take on Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.
That team was inducted into the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
Knapton graduated before the Cowboys went on to win another WAC title and play in a second Holiday Bowl the following season. When he arrived in 1984, Wyoming, then coached by Al Kincaid, struggled through a 6-6 campaign before plummeting to 3-8 in 1985. Dennis Erickson arrived the following season and led the team back to .500. He got the arrow pointed in the right direction right before bolting for his dream job at Washington State after just 12 games in Laramie.
Enter Paul Roach.
Roach kept the same offensive scheme. Smart.
Kincaid and Erickson's defensive recruits took care of the rest.
Knapton was selected by the Los Angeles Raiders in the sixth round of the 1988 NFL Draft. He was the only Cowboy taken that year.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (29), Robert Gagliardi (24), Jared Newland (NR), Ryan Thorburn (23), Kevin McKinney (NR)
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.