UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 37
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, 1954-56, Greybull, Wyoming
Here's why: Jim Crawford is one of the best homegrown talents to ever play at Wyoming.
He earned All-American honors (first, second and third team by numerous outlets) in 1956 after leading the nation in rushing with 1,104 yards on the ground. Crawford, who was named the Skyline Conference Back of the Year, was also the first Cowboy tailback to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in program history.
Wyoming went 10-0 during Crawford's senior season and finished 19th in the Associated Press polls. Still, the Pokes were left out of the postseason.
A year prior, they weren't.
Crawford's Cowboys, despite an 8-3 regular season record which included a pair of losses in the final two weeks, faced Texas Tech in the Sun Bowl to conclude the '55 campaign.
Jerry Jester was the team's leading rusher that year, but it was Crawford who was featured in El Paso. The Greybull product gashed the Red Raiders for 103 yards on just 18 carries and was named the Most Valuable Player.
Wyoming won, 21-14, giving the program its second bowl victory in as many trips.
Standing 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Crawford he played five seasons with the AFL's Boston Patriots and was a member of the first team in that franchise's history.
Crawford was enshrined in the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame in September of 1995. That was the third class in school history to earn that honor.
Tucker's take: Jim Crawford wore a number of different hats in life.
He was a high school football star in Greybull and again down the road in Laramie. After college, Crawford taught for one year in Lovell before being drafted by the U.S. Army. There he played on the Fort Carson football team.
After his service time was up, Crawford headed to New England where he was a member of the first Patriots team of the American Football League. The Pats played their home games in Boston at Nickerson Field and Fenway Park in those days.
Crawford eventually moved back to Greybull and was an engineer for the Burlington Northern Railroad for 30 years. In true Wyoming fashion, Crawford also loved to rodeo, ranch and hunt. He even served as a hunting guide near the Dubois area.
Those old enough to remember will tell you about the greatness of Crawford on the field. That senior season in Laramie is still one of the best in school history. Only 11 running backs have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark at UW. Crawford was the first. No one came close again until 1977 when Myron Hardeman ran for 1,165.
There's a reason Crawford was in this third Hall of Fame class in school history. He was indeed one of the best to ever do it in Laramie.
Crawford passed away in 2018 at the age of 82.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (39), Robert Gagliardi (NR), Jared Newland (26), Ryan Thorburn (21), 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.
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