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. 45 – Brian Lee

Safety, 1994-97, Arvada, Colo., 

Résumé in Laramie
The Football Writers of America, Football News, Walter Camp Football Foundation and the Associated Press named Brian Lee a first-team All-American in 1997. Lee is still the career leader in interceptions at Wyoming with 17 and is the only player in program history to intercept three passes in two games. In 1997, he led the NCAA with eight interceptions. Lee can also say he’s the only Cowboy in history to be named an All-American player and Academic All-American in the same season. In 1998, Lee was honored with the Admiral Land Award, which is given to Wyoming’s top student-athlete.

Why Lee?
Brian Lee’s 17 career interceptions are the most in Wyoming history.

He picked off three passes in a single game against Southern Methodist in 1996 and the following season in a win over Montana. That trio of interceptions against the Grizzlies broke the all-time record once held by Paul Wallace.

Only Selmer Pederson (our pick for No. 44) and Shamiel Gary have intercepted three passes in a single game for the Cowboys.

Lee is the only Cowboy to do it twice.

But one career interception for Lee stands above them all.

The Cowboys were trialing rival Colorado State, 24-19, with 8:05 left in the fourth quarter. Wyoming quarterback Josh Wallwork was hobbled after a leg injury. The temperature that November afternoon in snowy Fort Collins hovered around zero.

The Western Athletic Conference Pacific Division title was
on the line.

It was gut-check time.

Wallwork methodically drove the Pokes 96 yards, chewing up
nearly seven minutes of clock in the process. Wyoming’s injured signal caller
completed 6-of-8 passes to four different receivers on what will forever be
known in Laramie as “The Drive.”

Marques Brigham put the dagger in the Rams from six yards out to give Wyoming the lead.

But there was still 1:48 left on the clock.

It took only two plays for the Cowboys to seal the deal and punch their ticket to the WAC title game when Lee stepped in front of a Moses Moreno bullet. Lee dropped directly to the ground preserving the victory and sending the brown-and-gold corner of Hughes Stadium into a frenzy.

“I also will never forget intercepting a pass in the final few minutes against CSU to help us win the game,” Lee said. “And then we learned an hour later that we were heading to the WAC Championship.”

Here's a video of that day for your viewing pleasure:

Lee is still the only player in school history to be named
an All-American on the field and in the classroom. The Arvada, Colo., product led
the nation with eight interceptions during that 1997 season. Wyoming’s defense
was ranked sixth in the country that season. As a team, the Cowboys picked off 24
passes.

In 1996, the same year he sent CSU packing and Wyoming to
the desert, he also picked off a team-high eight passes. Lee also returned two
interceptions for touchdowns during his career.

He was also known to pop a guy in the mouth now and then. Or
chop a tree:

After graduation, Lee moved back home to the Denver area where he became a teacher. In 2008, Lee was enshrined in the UW Athletics Hall of Fame.

Honorable mention
This undersized linebacker is ninth all-time in tackles (344) and 10th in tackles for loss with 21. He helped lead the Cowboys to a Mountain Division title in 2016 and a berth in Poinsettia Bowl.

He is Lucas Wacha (2013-16).

The 6-foot, 1-inch, 230-pound hitman from Texas wrapped up
his career with four sacks, the same number of fumble recoveries and a pair of
forces fumbles. Wacha was known for his all-out effort and speed, gashing
through offensive lines in pursuit of opposing quarterbacks and runners.

Wacha went undrafted out of college but did spend some time
with the Dallas Cowboys. He spent the 2018 season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats
of the Canadian Football League.

In July, Wacha was named a football coach at his former high school, Pleasant Grove in Texarkana, Texas.

Who else wore No. 45
Austin Hall (LB), Kevin Kiley (LB), Mike McGraw (LB), Charlie Gaines (LB), Richard Sauls (DB), Mark Elliott (LB), Jon Mathis (DT), Antwan Floyd (TE), Bryson Studnicka (LB), Adam Pilapil (LB), Isaiah Abdullah (LB)

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