Which Wyoming Cowboy wore it best? No. 40
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. 40 – Jim Crawford
Tailback, 1954-56, Greybull, Wyo.
Résumé in Laramie
Jim Crawford was a star tailback at UW, rushing for 1,775 yards in just three seasons. His 1956 season is still the ninth-best all-time with 1,104 yards on only 200 carries. Crawford led the NCAA in rushing that season. He also scored 13 touchdowns and was named the Skyline Conference Back of the Year. He also earned All-American status. The Greybull product also helped lead the Cowboys to the program’s second bowl appearance ever. All he did that day was win MVP of the Sun Bowl.
"Jim was the toughest SOB who ever walked. He played injured his whole senior year and never complained. He would just duck his head and run hard. He was a horse."
That’s major praise from former Wyoming teammate, John Watts.
That is Jim Crawford in just four sentences.
In 2011, Bob Hammond of the Laramie Boomerang penned a feature story about Crawford.
It begins like this.
“There are various theories on the origin of the term ‘Cowboy Tough.’ Regardless of the source, one guy fits the mold: the University of Wyoming's former All-American tailback, Jim Crawford.
“He was a rodeo cowboy, a UW Cowboy and was nicknamed ‘cowboy.’”
Crawford was indeed one of the toughest Wyoming football players of all time. And one of the best.
The Greybull product racked up 1,775 rushing yards during his three-year stint in Laramie. During his senior campaign in 1956, Crawford led the nation in rushing with 1,104 yards. If that isn’t impressive enough, Crawford out-dueled some serious heavyweights in that category, one being a guy named Jim Brown from Syracuse.
Crawford earned All-American honors and was named the Skyline Conference Back of the Year in ’56. His name was up there with some of the game’s best players: Tommy McDonald (Oklahoma), Paul Hornung (Notre Dame) and Texas A&M’s John David Crow, among many others.
The Cowboys were better because of Crawford, too.
During his career, Wyoming was one of the top teams in the nation, posting a 24-7 record under head coach Phil Dickens. During Crawford’s final season, the Pokes went 10-0 and competed in only the second bowl game in program history.
Crawford dominated that day in El Paso, gashing Texas Tech for 103 yards on just 18 carries. He was voted the MVP of the Sun Bowl and the Pokes won the game, 21-14.
Crawford went 3-0 against BYU and was a block extra-point attempt away from potentially sweeping Colorado A&M (CSU).
The 6-foot, 201-pound bruiser was selected in the 14th round of the 1957 American Football League Draft by the Boston Patriots. He played five seasons under Lou Saban.
Before Crawford rushed for 1,078 yards and caught 501 yards worth of passes in the AFL, he spent two years in the Army.
He told Hammond that his time in Boston was not memorable.
"I don't have a lot of good things to say about it," Crawford said. "The coach kind of took advantage of me. He made me put on a lot of weight and everything, and it hurt me.
"Saban was pretty knowledgeable, but it was all politics in those days. That's how he got his job."
On June 10, 2018, Crawford passed away at home in Coleman, Okla. He was 82.
His obituary says: “Jim retired as an engineer from the Burlington Northern Railroad after 30 years. He also loved to ranch, rodeo and hunt. He spent many years as a hunting guide in the Thoroughfare and the mountains near Dubois. In 2008, Jim and Mary moved to Lusk to be closer to their granddaughter, Fallon.”
In 1995, Crawford was inducted into the Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame.
How about another Hall of Famer to wear the No. 40?
Walker “Sonny” Jones (1948-49) transferred to UW after playing his first two seasons at Mississippi State. He came with then-head coach Bowden Wyatt. The Philadelphia, Miss., product came to Laramie to play tailback in the “Tennessee T” single-wing offense.
Wyoming fans are glad he did.
Jones scored three touchdowns and rushed for 210 yards in his first game as a Cowboy. Wyoming trounced Colorado College, 61-7, that afternoon at Corbett Field in Laramie. Jones also returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown that day, accounting for 24 of the Cowboys’ points. Jones earned all-conference honors that season, finishing with 680 yards and compiling 54 of UW’s points.
He got even better his senior season.
Again, Jones earned all-conference accolades. Again, he put up big numbers – 817 yards and 78 points. Only this time, he had a running mate in all-time great, Eddie Talboom. The duo were dubbed the “Touchdown Twins,” and together they led UW to a 9-1 record and a Skyline Championship.
Wyoming was so dominating in those years, the defense shutout six opponents in a row.
Jones was selected by the Chicago Cardinals in the 1950 NFL Draft. He was inducted into UW’s Hall of Fame in 2008.
Another quick nod needs to go to Wyoming’s current place kicker, Cooper Rothe.
The Longmont, Colo., native was 16-of-17 in 2018 and named a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. Last week in Las Vegas, Rothe was named preseason Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year. He is also on the watch list for the Groza again.
Who else wore No. 40
George Herrick (S), Steve Burke (S), JC Fowler (RB), Greg Worker (K), Lee Carter (LB), Brian Gragert (P), Richard Peprah (LB), Chris Jordan (LB), Cameron Clark (S), Lamonta Ward (CB), Dylan Kildahl (DE), Nick Landess (K/P), Zach Ewan (LS), Stuart Williams (K/P), Sam Boyd (CB), Taylor Dodd (S), Deric Yaussi (K)
- All available rosters and photos courtesy of the University of Wyoming. If we missed one, please email Cody@7220sports.com.