UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 42
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.
Safety, 1949-51, Lander, Wyoming
Here's why: Our selection at No. 43 in this series -- John Salley -- was thought to be one of the greatest Wyoming safeties of the 1980's. Tashaun Gipson, the 46th pick, was in that same category in the late 2000's.
Our guy today is the one who started the tradition at that position.
His coach, Bowden Wyatt, said Selmer Pederson was the "best safety in football" when he roamed the defensive backfield for the Cowboys from 1949-51. The Lander product was a two-time All-Skyline selection. He was also an honorable mention All-American in 1950, the same season the Pokes topped Washington & Lee 20-7 in the Gator Bowl, giving the program its first ever postseason victory.
Pederson picked off a Gil Bocetti pass in that one. You can see that GIF below.
Just how good were those defense Pederson helped lead in those days?
Those Cowboys teams over that three-year span pitched 13 shutouts, including six straight in 1949. Wyoming outscored Colorado State, Montana State, Utah State, Utah, BYU and Northern Colorado 244 to goose egg. That included the most lopsided victory in school history, a 103-0 beatdown of the Bears from Greeley.
Opposing teams during that 26-3-1 span only netted double-digits on the scoreboard eight times.
All these years later -- 71 to be exact -- Pederson is still tied for the single-game record with three interceptions in a game. Only Brian Lee and Shamiel Gary can say that.
Guess what position those two played?
In 2012, Pederson was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame.
Tucker's take: Yes, Pederson was one of the best safeties to ever do it in Laramie, but did you know he is still arguably the best punt returner in school history, too?
Pederson still holds the team record for return yards and average yards per return with 1,080 and 13, respectively.
Pederson set a pair of records in 1949 that still stand today. He averaged 16.1 yards per attempt as a sophomore. Against Montana State that same season, Pederson gashed the Bobcats to the tune of 36.3 yards per return. He also set conference records for most punt returns (83).
If you read those defensive stats above, you know Pederson had plenty of opportunities on the punt return.
I often think about these guys and wonder if their game would've translated to today's game. Some, definitely not. Pederson, with his obvious athleticism and nose for the football, I sure wouldn't count him out.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (NR), Robert Gagliardi (43), Jared Newland (12), Ryan Thorburn (NR), 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.