CHEYENNE -- Do you ever see a number on a Wyoming football jersey and think of all the great players to wear it? Yeah, me too. In this daily series, I’ll give you my take on which Pokes’ football player was the best ever to don each number. The criteria are simple: How did he perform at UW? What kind of impact did he have on the program?

No. 10 – Paul Toscano

Quarterback/ safety, 1965-67, Congers, N.Y.

Résumé in Laramie
Before he became the WAC Player of the Year in 1967, leading the Pokes to a 10-1 record and Berth in the Sugar Bowl from under center, Paul Toscano was an all-conference safety. The year prior, he picked off six passes, then a school record. He still holds the program mark for most return yards after an interception with 165 in 1966. As a quarterback, Toscano led the country in touchdown passes with 18. He was third in the nation in passing with 1,791 yards, and fourth in total offense with 1,915. He set 11 WAC records during his lone season as a signal caller and finished 12th in the Heisman Trophy voting. He was the UPI Player of the Year in the Rocky Mountain region and finished fifth in the national voting. It was the best single season for any Pokes’ passer to that point.

Why Toscano?
With more than 72,000 fans crammed into Tulane Stadium on a soggy, muddy afternoon in New Orleans, Wyoming senior quarterback Paul Toscano and the sixth-ranked Cowboys fought to the very end.

After watching 30-minutes of grainy footage from that 1968 Sugar Bowl, Wyoming not only showed they belonged in that New Year’s Day game, they should’ve won.

Check out the Youtube video here.

Toscano didn’t have his best game. He threw three interceptions and fumbled after a blindside hit with 1:37 remaining in the game. Only one of those turnovers came back to hurt the Cowboys that day. Toscano, dropping back to pass, got his elbow hit. A lame duck landed into the awaiting arms of an LSU defender.

The Tigers would capitalize and go up 20-13 in the fourth.

With the ball inside their own 20 and less than 40 seconds on the game clock, Toscano, thanks to a little luck, found George Anderson for a 54-yard gain, giving the Pokes the ball at the LSU 23 with a single tick remaining. Toscano took a three-step drop on that final play and hit Gene Huey with a slant pass. He was immediately brought down at the five-yard line.

Game over.

“I would have given half a year’s salary for 10 more seconds,” moaned UW head coach, Lloyd Eaton.  “Just 10 more seconds.”

Toscano, a converted all-conference safety from just 16 miles north of New York City, completed 14 of 23 passes for 239 yards that day. He slipped away from pressure, showed toughness and made a mockery of the LSU secondary – when he was on the mark.

The Cowboys led 13-0 after one half. They dominated the Tigers badly. Wyoming had 11 first downs to LSU’s one. The Pokes’ Jim Kiick-led rushing attack out gained their opponent, 130-33. Toscano had 85 yards passing. LSU had five.

The Cowboys, however, missed a field goal and had another one blocked.

During the regular season, Toscano finished with 18 touchdown passes to lead the nation. He completed 58.1 percent of his passes and amassed 1,791 yards through the air. He set 11 Western Athletic Conference records that season. He was named the all-conference QB and Back of the Year. Wyoming went undefeated in the regular season in 1968. He also earned the title WAC Offensive Player of the Year. He was the first Cowboy to receive that honor.

When he was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999, his plaque called him a “storybook” player. Toscano showed his versatility, going from a safety with six interceptions, to the Pokes new starting QB, replacing Rick Egloff.

“All “Pitchin’ Paul” did was lead the Cowboys to a 10-1 record, a WAC title, and a berth in Wyoming’s biggest bowl ever, the 1968 Sugar Bowl,” his plaque reads.

"The football pride at Wyoming gets more intense every year. Once you've been up, you never want to be down again,” an unnamed player told Sports Illustrated that season.

That was certainly one of, if not the best, seasons in school history.

Toscano was drafted by the Houston Oilers in the seventh round of the 1969 NFL Draft after earning Most Outstanding Back as a member of the North Squad in the Senior Bowl.

Honorable mention
When I sat down to start researching who the best player to ever wear the No. 10 was a few things came to mind. First) I can’t think of a single player who even wore than number. Two) Toscano is definitely the guy, but why are there so few players who wore than number.

The rosters I have available give only two names – Dick Brooks (RB) and Paul Schuman (QB).

Huh?

Time to email Diane Dodson at the university.

Of course, she had the answer. And, boy, am I glad I reached out.

Turns out, the No. 10 is not “officially retired” but it is reserved for one man. The man, who coincidentally, took over at QB two seasons after Toscano graduated, was Ed Synakowski.

Also a New York native, Synakowski had a big season for the Pokes in 1969. He led Wyoming in total offense with 1,103 total yards, 1,057 of which were passing, and threw five touchdowns.

Unfortunately, in the summer of 1970, just before Synakowski entered his junior season, he died in a boating accident on Lake Hattie outside of Laramie.

No one has worn the No. 10 since.

Who else wore No. 10
Ed Synakowski (QB, Dick Brooks (RB), Paul Schuman (QB)

  • All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.