Was it all worth it?
CHEYENNE -- Was it all worth it?
Ben Wisdorf can't help it. Sometimes that thought just creeps into his mind every now and then.
It's especially tough when he is going through hours of grueling rehab sessions on a right knee that was all but destroyed when a Boise State helmet plowed into it on a cold November night in Idaho.
Wisdorf doesn't know if there was a cart in the stadium or not. All Wyoming's former linebacker knows is he didn't get one.
Admittedly, he really didn't want one anyway.
The second after that hit, his knee began to ache. He described it as a panicky moment where you know something isn't right.
"My knee was wobbly," he said, adding that everything in his knee was torn aside from his ACL. "That was a tiring walk."
Wisdorf, with the assistance of Wyoming trainers, made the slow journey across the blue turf of Albertson's Stadium. That's when it set in -- these would be his last moments as a football player.
"There was a heartfelt moment in the x-ray room," he said. "My dad came down and we just cried. It was sad.
"It's hard to go out that way."
On a sunny Saturday afternoon on the east side of Cheyenne, Wisdorf was busy flipping fry bread in a vat of boiling oil. It's just another day for his family run business, Oompah Indian Style Tacos.
Wisdorf hand-stretches the dough. Then after a short bath in the fryer, beans and beef fill the pillowy goodness. Then comes the cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, olives and sour cream.
"We've fiddled with the recipe," he says with a smile.
So what makes this different than any other Indian taco?
"I don't think my dad wants me to put that out there."
All kidding aside, this food truck has been in Wisdorf's family for more than three decades. He just helps on the weekends, but started as a "nacho boy" when he was just 8 years old.
Even in this cramped kitchen his mind can wonder.
Was it all worth it?
"I see all my teammates who just graduated and they are going to work in the real world," he said. "I'm still doing rehab. Sometimes it's hard to keep a positive mindset."
One of the people he is referring to is fellow linebacker Logan Wilson. His good friend just landed his dream job. Soon, he will be taking down running backs and gluing himself to tight ends in the National Football League.
Wisdorf and Wilson go way back. During their junior seasons in high school, the two met at War Memorial Stadium with a state championship on the line. Wisdorf's East High Thunderbirds pulled off the upset that night, knocking off Wilson and the Natrona County Mustangs, 14-13.
NC's kicker missed two field goals, including one to win the game.
The kicker was Wilson.
"He barely missed," Wisdorf laughed. "Those were college posts. If they were high school posts, It might have been good."
Wisdorf said he and Wilson formed a bond when they came to Laramie. Both in-state products, they leaned on each other for support. They redshirted together. They both started their career at UW on a 2-10 team.
"We both talked about calling our dads and wanting to quit," Wisdorf said. "Instead, we motivated each other."
So, when Wilson got drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of last month's NFL Draft, Wisdorf said the only word he could use to describe the moment is "special."
"It was a roller-coaster of emotions really," he said. "He came to Laramie with potential. He was an undersized defensive back playing linebacker. I watched all the work he put in. We all did. He wasn't born with a natural gift where he could just go out there and make plays. He worked at it."
Wisdorf tallied just 23 tackles during his four-year career in Laramie. Most of that damage came on special teams as he sat behind starting linebackers Wilson and Cassh Maluia.
He could've gone to a smaller college and received all the glory. Instead, Wisdorf walked on at UW, his dream school.
"Growing up, I used to look at Wyoming players as if they were NFL players. Like Gods almost," he said. "I became a contributor. And all I wanted to do was be in that locker room.
"In the end, they needed me as much as I needed them."
With 15 seconds remaining in the first half in the 2019 season opener against Missouri, the Tigers were knocking on the door at the Cowboys' 2-yard line. Wyoming led 24-17, but that was about to be short lived.
Or so we thought.
Wisdorf, lined up on the left side of the line, ducked under an oncoming tackle and drove his left shoulder into the midsection of Mizzou running back Larry Rountree. The ball popped loose and into the arms of Wyoming's Alijah Halliburton, who sprinted down the west sideline before being drug down at the 11-yard line.
Wyoming capitalized, adding three points to the scoreboard and taking a 27-17 lead into the locker room.
What if Wisdorf doesn't make that stick? Do the Cowboys pull off the stunner?
Less than a month later, Wyoming hosted Mountain West rival, UNLV. Before the half, Wisdorf and his teammates were making their way to the locker room. Head coach Craig Bohl stopped Wisdorf and told him to stay on the field.
Confused, the voice over the loud speaker called Wisdorf's attention to the jumbo tron. There, his brother Jordan Wisdorf had a message for him from his station in Afghanistan. The moment brought the capacity crowd to its feet. Tears and cheers filled Wyoming's home stadium.
"It gave me goose bumps,” Wisdorf said that night. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t holding back tears.
“Ready to get him back. It’s been a long time.”
Jordan's plan was to return to the states for his brother's final game Nov. 30 at Air Force. Unfortunately, Wisdorf would not be suiting up after sustaining that knee injury.
On senior night against Border War rival Colorado State, Wisdorf appeared under the goal posts in a wheel chair. Two days prior, he underwent an extensive surgery. The pain pills had started to wear off by game time.
"I really wanted to come out on crutches and not in a wheel chair," he said. "I just couldn't do it."
With Wilson by his side, Wisdorf rolled out on to the turf at Jonah Field. Wilson, who was also playing his final home game, wore white tape around his wrists. The word "Wiz" was written in black marker.
Because of the extreme cold that night, Wisdorf couldn't be on the sideline with his teammates either. He was forced to watch his team take on the hated Rams from the home locker room.
"That was bittersweet," he said.
Then, as he was being wheeled in, there stood Jordan.
"That meant the world to me," Wisdorf said. "There were a lot of tears. I hadn't seen him in more than a year."
On those days when his knee aches and the pain seems unbearable, it's those thoughts and memories that keep him going. The years of being relegated to a back-up and banging heads on special teams just to see the field doesn't seem quite so bad anymore.
That play against Mizzou, that moment he shared with his brother, both on the big screen and in the locker room, made the journey all seem worth while.
"Hell yeah it was worth it," he said with a smile.