UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 45
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.
Offensive tackle, 1981-84, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Here's why: How much did Joe Ramunno's time at the University of Wyoming mean to him?
Well, in 2015 when his Palisade Bulldogs were set to take on Classical Academy, the head football coach got the game moved from a traditional Friday to a Thursday night. He was busy that weekend -- being inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame.
High school football would have to take a backseat for one week.
“It’s a huge honor," Ramunno told WesternSlopeNow.com in his home state of Colorado. "It’s a team thing. I’m not much on that, as far as an individual, but I had some great friends, some great family that I was able to play with and do some things up there. I had a great career. I’m indebted to Wyoming forever. I love that place, and I’ll always be a Cowboy.”
Ramunno was named an Honorable Mention All-American twice in head coach Al Kincaid's offense. During those seasons, he also earned First-Team All-Western Athletic Conference honors, blocking for players like Phil Davis, Scott Runyan, Walter Goffigan and others.
His most impressive stat -- 47.
That's how many consecutive games Ramunno suited up for the Pokes.
That wasn't your typical run-and-gun, drop-back passing attack, either. Those Cowboys ran the wishbone, averaging more than 60 carries per game. That 1983 squad still owns the program's all-time rushing record, racking up 3,245 yards on the ground. Wyoming rushed the ball 731 times in 1982. That record also still stands.
The Cowboys went 8-3 during Ramunno's freshman season, which included a 33-20 upset of 13th-ranked BYU with a driving snowstorm hanging around War Memorial Stadium throughout the day. That, unfortunately for Ramunno's Pokes, was as good as it would get. Over his final three seasons, UW went 18-18.
Ramunno earned the Admiral Emory S. Land Award as the top senior athlete on campus in 1984. Along with being named a team captain with fellow senior Jay Novacek, Ramunno also grabbed All-WAC academic honors.
He went undrafted out of high school but was snagged by the Chicago Bears as a free agent -- the 1985 Bears. You remember them, right? Ramunno would spend just one season in the Windy City. He was put on injured reserve and never played a snap for the Super Bowl champs.
Tucker's take: When doing the research to write about Joe Ramunno, one thing occurred to me -- he sure would've fit right in with the Cowboys' offensive line over the last handful of years.
He seems like a "Craig Bohl guy" to me.
Ramunno sounds like he would've loved being on these recent UW teams, too. He played 47 consecutive games on a squad that ran and ran and ran and ran some more. Sound familiar?
Just think for a minute about all the running under Bohl. Let's look at the 2019 campaign, one that didn't involve COVID-19 and added an extra game to the schedule with the Arizona Bowl. Wyoming ran the ball 575 times that year. It amassed 2,792 rushing yards. That, compared to just 256 passing attempts and 1,770 yards through the air.
In 1983, Ramunno and Co. rushed the ball 731 times. Cowboy ball carriers rolled up nearly 3,300 yards. It's unfortunate that Ramunno never got the chance to pave the way and open holes for Walter Payton in the pros.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (NR), Robert Gagliardi (NR), Jared Newland (29), Ryan Thorburn (NR), Kevin McKinney (38)
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.