UW’s Top 50 football players: No. 9
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, 1965-67, Lincoln Park, New Jersey
Here's why: In 124 seasons of football in Laramie, just two running backs have led the team in rushing for three straight seasons.
There's Brian Hill, Wyoming's all-time leading rusher, who accomplished that feat from 2014-16.
Then there's Jim Kiick.
From 1965-67, this New Jersey native carried the ball 431 times in Lloyd Eaton's offensive attack. Kiick amassed 1,714 yards on the ground during his three seasons as the Cowboys' starter. He should've trademarked the "Cowboy sweep," a run he made so famous in the late 60's as Wyoming climbed in the national polls and eventually played in the 1968 Sugar Bowl.
Unlike during Hill's first two years on campus, Kiick had plenty of help. He didn't need to be the star every Saturday to give the Pokes a chance. Yet, most games he was.
Between 1966 and '68, 11 Wyoming Cowboys heard their name called in the professional football draft: Jerry Marion, Darryl Alleman, Ron Billingsley, Rick Egloff, Don Klacking, Mike Davenport, Jerry DePoyster, Mike LaHood, Mike Dirks, Paul Toscano and Kiick
Still, he became the first player in Western Athletic Conference history to earn All-Conference honors three straight times.
With Kiick in the backfield, UW went 26-6, won back-to-back WAC titles and appeared in two bowl games. The Cowboys fell short in New Orleans, but in 1966 Kiick led the team to a 28-20 victory over Florida State in the Sun Bowl.
That day in El Paso, Texas, Kiick carved up the Seminoles to the tune of 135 rushing yards and two scores. He was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Kiick's winning ways didn't stop in college.
He was selected in the fifth round of the 1968 AFL Draft by Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins. Just five years later, Miami went undefeated, putting together the only perfect season to this day in NFL history. Kiick played in three Super Bowls and won two of them.
Kiick died June 19, 2020, in Wilton Manors, Florida. He was 73.
McKinney's take: When I think of Jim Kiick during our college days, I think of a guy who was almost larger than life.
Whether I’d see him going to class or prior to practice, he was always the same guy. He was approachable and always had time for me.
I remember how proud I was when he and Larry Csonka were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as one of the greatest running back tandems in National Football League history for the Miami Dolphins. All of Wyoming was rooting for Kiick and the Dolphins while they won three Super Bowls and became the only undefeated NFL team in league history in 1972, 17-0. He and Csonka were known as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” but he was Wyoming’s “star” during its golden age of 1965-66-67.
He may be one of the most respected players in Cowboy football history. Maybe his best game ever came in the 1966 Sun Bowl when he was the MVP in Wyoming’s win over Florida State. He rushed for 135 yards on 25 carries, caught four passes for 42 yards and scored twice. He became the only player in Western Athletic Conference history to earn All-League honors three years in a row.
He had an uncanny running style that always seemed to fool defenders. He didn’t have great speed, but it was good enough. Jim was a prototypical running back. He could get the tough yards, but he could also break a long one. He was incredibly reliable, and rarely fumbled the ball. He was a complete back. He could catch it out of the backfield, get a third-and-one, or break one for big yardage on that famous Cowboy sweep. He was also an outstanding blocker.
Best of all, he was a great team leader. He could do it all, and at the very highest level.
In every sense of the phrase, he is a hall of famer. He was inducted into the UW Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996. I know his teammates miss him, as do all of us who were around Wyoming during his time as a Cowboy.
How the panel voted: Cody Tucker (14), Robert Gagliardi (18), Jared Newland (20), Ryan Thorburn (6), Kevin McKinney (15)
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
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.