UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 7
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.
Linebacker, 1984-87, Denver, Colorado
Here's why: Galand Thaxton hasn't played a single snap in Laramie in 34 years.
Yet, he is still the program's all-time leader in tackles with 467. His 158 stops in 1986 is still tops on the history books, too. The Denver native is still 15 single-season tackles ahead of the next guy on the list -- also Galand Thaxton.
In the late 80's, all you had to do was watch where the ball was going and you were sure to find No. 90 in the vicinity.
Thaxton possessed the unique skill of having the speed to play on the perimeter and the strength to battle with the big boys in the trenches. As you can see from the numbers above, he won more times than not.
Cowboy fans knew they had something special almost immediately.
In his first season, Thaxton was named the Western Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year. He bookended his Wyoming career with an All-American nod in 1987. In between there was the first team All-Conference honors as a junior, too.
Thaxton, a defensive captain in his final two seasons at UW (the first player in team history to ever earn that title at the time), helped lead the Pokes to a Holiday Bowl berth in Paul Roach's first year on the sidelines. Wyoming went 10-3 overall and claimed it's first of two consecutive conference championships.
Two of those losses -- Washington State and Oklahoma State -- came in the regular season. The third came in San Diego where the Cowboys dropped a 20-19 heartbreaker to the No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes.
The versatile linebacker went undrafted in 1988 but did spent time on the rosters of the Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers.
Thaxton was inducted into the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999.
Tucker's take: Thaxton is one of the very few former players who have decided to stay in Laramie and make a life for himself. He has been a State Farm agent, bouncing back and forth between the Gem City and his native Denver for years.
Despite him being a local fixture, still, sadly, I have never had the pleasure of meeting him face to face.
I did have the opportunity to chat with Thaxton on the phone this past winter though for a story I was doing about his former head coach Dennis Erickson.
Thaxton's UW teammates told me he was a mild-mannered cool customer, never too high or too low. That all changed when Erickson left to take his "dream job" at Washington State after spending just one season in Laramie.
Erickson was the second of three coaches Thaxton would play for at UW.
"If there's a brick wall on the field, I'll run through it," Thaxton told the local paper before Week 2 of the 1987 season.
Wyoming was traveling to Pullman, Washington, to take on Erickson's Cougars. It was dubbed the "Bitter Bowl."
Robert Midgett, a fellow linebacker on that team, said practice that week was unlike any he had seen before.
"He was on the warpath that whole week," he said of Thaxton.
Midgett said during a Tuesday practice, Thaxton knocked three offensive linemen out with concussions in the first 20 minutes. The hole in the front five required replacements. Midgett was one of them.
"Galand never yells in practice," he recalled. "He is literally the nicest guy you will ever meet. If you meet someone who has anything bad to say about him I want you to take a step back and think, 'what is wrong with this person?' That's the kind of guy he is. But, that day, he yelled at us to get out and block him like Washington State's line was going to do.
"I can tell you that was a good week of practice. Galand was upset."
Wyoming fell that Saturday, 43-28, but it served as a turning point in the season. Yes, the team lost the following week to a talented OSU squad in Laramie, but after that, they didn't lose again in the regular season, reeling off nine straight wins.
"That was a real hard one," Erickson said of facing his former team, adding that some of the UW players expressed their disappointment with him after the game. "We almost got our ass beat, to be honest with you. We were all upset with what went down."
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (7), Robert Gagliardi (5), Jared Newland (8), Ryan Thorburn (14), Kevin McKinney (14)
Previous selections: No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16, No. 15, No. 14, No. 13, No. 12, No. 11, No. 10, No. 9, No. 8
Cody Tucker: Brand Manager 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.
LOOK: Pokes' unis through the years